Super round a good test for Blues as they take on Brumbies

The relative strength of New Zealand and Australian rugby will be on display this weekend when the Blues meet the Brumbies in a repeat of last year's Super Rugby Pacific semi-final.

All 12 teams compete in the super round in Melbourne this weekend.

The Brumbies dominated their Australian rivals last year but fell short in a 20-19 thriller at Eden Park as the Blues booked their place in the final against the eventual champion Crusaders.

Reuters reports the Blues have won their last 14 regular season matches, including last week's 60-20 hiding of the Highlanders in their season-opener in Dunedin.

The Brumbies, however, have proved tough foes for the Blues and head into Sunday's afternoon clash at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium confident after a solid 31-25 win over the improving Waratahs.

"We know the Brumbies will bring a physical, confronting game and we have been preparing all week to meet that challenge," Blues captain Dalton Papalii said.

All matches will be played at the Rectangular Stadium in three consecutive days of double-headers as part of the competition's "Super Round".

The Crusaders, might welcome the chance to play in a city where rugby is barely on the radar given the media storm over the All Blacks' coaching situation back home.

Within six weeks, Crusaders' coach Scott Robertson is expected to be confirmed as Ian Foster's successor as All Blacks coach after the World Cup in France, regardless of the application process announced by New Zealand Rugby on Wednesday.

The Crusaders were upset 31-10 by the Chiefs in a major shock at home last weekend, and Robertson will not want another defeat on his ledger before interviews with NZR.

He will have veteran All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock back in the side fore the Highlanders clash and has restored the formidable midfield partnership of David Havili and Jack Goodhue after using Havili at fullback last week.

The Hurricanes will look to back up their impressive 47-13 win away to the Reds when they meet the home team, Rebels, tonight.

Hurricanes winger Julian Savea scored his 58th try against the Reds and can match Israel Folau's all-time Super Rugby record with a double against the Rebels.

The Waratahs experimented with dual opensides in their back row against the Brumbies but ditched that after one match, dropping Charlie Gamble to the bench for their match against Fijian Drua on Saturday.

The Western Force, meanwhile, have promoted comeback king Jeremy Thrush to their starting lineup for Sunday's match against the Reds after the 37-year-old lock scored the winning try off the bench against the Rebels last week.

Thrush retired in the off-season but was coaxed back to the game after an injury to Izack Rodda.

The Chiefs will look to continue their perfect start when they meet Moana Pasifika in the early match on Saturday.



Blues captain Beauden Barrett Photo: PHOTOSPORT