NZ Super Rugby Northern/Southern derbies may be the absolute Best

NZ Super Rugby Northern/Southern derbies are the absolute Best
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 17: Jack Goodhue of the Crusaders prepares to off-load during the round five Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium on March 17, 2018 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

It’s hard to judge which are the best. From all of the choices of local derby matches across the whole competition, the selection is overwhelming yet, many will agree that NZ Super Rugby Northern/Southern derbies may be the absolute Best!

In that, the Chiefs v Hurricanes and Highlanders v Crusaders games scheduled this week are ‘absolute belters’. Bound to draw a huge audience live at the ground; FMG Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, and Forsyth-Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

Each holds it’s own attraction. The Northern match pips the Chiefs against the Hurricanes – a rivalry that is both traditional, and also bordering a geographic boundary that sees some fans still cheering from an old Hurricanes base (even when the Chiefs franchise map was revised to include Taranaki).

And then the Southern match-up includes two longtime rivals who bring out the best in each other. One holding an undefeated home ground sequence, while the other has an unbeaten run of games that could re-write all NZ Super Rugby record books.

Northern/Southern derbies are the absolute Best

Derby matches have little to do with competition points. More so at this stage of the schedule; as Round Five is, it may signal a step into the second-third of the season, although it is still too early to judge who are the finalists.

Down south, the Crusaders have won four-from-four. The Highlanders two-from-four, and even now, the outcome is hardly likely to ‘end your season’. Yet losing to the neighbours can be a little more demoralizing. An emotional result, and worth plenty in the good old bragging rights.

The match-up on Friday holds a context where losing might place one team in danger of ‘losing touch with the leaders’. The Hurricanes could bring more despair to the Waikato region, further compounding the losing streak of head coach Colin Cooper [once the rugby director for the Canes]. So NZ Super Rugby derbies not only have implications on teams season’s….they also hold a threat on the field.

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In Hamilton, superstar names are spread across the park, the ‘Canes so very strong in the backline. Their natural instincts are one thing, yet a good grounding in setpiece is needed to stand-up to the Chiefs. A Chiefs side who are out to prove 2019 is an anomaly, not the trend.

Those factors will make this NZ Super Rugby northern derby a game worth watching.

NZ Super Rugby local derby stats:

  • The Chiefs have won four of their last five regular season Super Rugby games against the Hurricanes, despite leading at halftime just twice in that span. (Note; the last match between the two was a Hurricanes win, to send them into the 2018 semifinals).
  • The Highlanders have won 14 of their last 15 Super Rugby games at home, including wins over Australian opposition in their last two fixtures.
  • The Crusaders have won their last eight Super Rugby games away from home; however, their last defeat on the road came in Round 5, 2018 against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

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Northern hemisphere Six Nations to follow NZ Super Rugby fixtures

So if you were not entertained enough, then on Sunday morning NZ time/Saturday afternoon in Cardiff, where Ireland hope to restore their ‘mojo’ in the Guinness Six Nations.

The Scottish team are traveling down to Twickenham, and might find the Chariot ‘gassed and ready to fire’. Only a day out from St Patricks Day, that factor will play little part, as the Welsh side are the leading nation. They have outshone every opponent, so this last encounter will count for much.

To go from local derby games, to an International, it would be hard to suggest one were greater than the next. No doubt, when your country is being represented, then so many more elements are involved. Yet, the NZ Super Rugby derby games are just as Titanic. Just as critical and even without a Championship on the line yet…..season-defining.

Across in the Northern hemisphere, the winner of #WALvIRE will take plenty of confidence into the July Internationals, and the proceeding fixtures leading up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Who to judge as the best match? Unfortunately, as rugby fans too, Last Word on Rugby are remiss in calling results. But the advice is ‘watch every game’. Because this weekend, from Hamilton to London, Dunedin to Cardiff, each game is going to be sensational.

Chiefs v Hurricanes – Friday March 15. FMG Waikato Stadium, 7:35pm (NZT)

Highlanders v Crusaders – Saturday March 16. For-Barr Stadium, 7:35pm (NZT)

 *statistics courtesy of OPTA Sports and SANZAAR.

 

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