Super Rugby Aotearoa R9: Line-ups, odds, analysis

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In the penultimate round of Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Crusaders get the chance to clinch the inaugural title a week early, while the Blues will sit on the sideline with a bye hoping for a Highlanders victory.

Yet to produce a win this season, the Chiefs get one final shot in their final match against the Hurricanes on Friday night, while the Highlanders will need to put on an impressive performance to down the Crusaders and delay the crowning of the title winners until next week.

Read on for fixtures, team lists, odds and analysis of both matches.

Saturday, August 8

Hurricanes vs. Chiefs, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 5:05pm (AEST)

Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Kobus Van Wyk, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Vince Aso, Wes Goosen, Jackson Garden-Bachop, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Scott Scrafton, James Blackwell, Tyrel Lomax, Dane Coles, Ben May.

Replacements: Asafo Aumua, Tevita Mafileo, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Kane Le'aupepe, Devan Flanders, Jamie Booth, Billy Procotr, Jonah Lowe

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Shaun Stevenson, Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Sean Wainui, Kaleb Trask, Brad Weber, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Mitchell Brown, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Nepo Laulala, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Ollie Norris.

Replacements: Bradley Slater, Rob Cobb, Angus Ta'avao, Tupou Vaa'i, Mitchell Karpik, Lisati Milo-Harris, Quinn Tupaea, Kini Naholo.

Odds [tab.com.au]: Hurricanes $1.44 (-6.5 $1.90), Chiefs $2.80 (+6.5 $1.90)

Verdict: In their final match of the season, the Chiefs will be desperate to ensure they don't finish the competition winless. Sitting out with a bye in the final round, the pressure is on Warren Gatland's side to get the victory, but facing the Hurricanes - who remain a mathematical chance of claiming the title - could see them heading home with their tales between their legs. The Hurricanes meanwhile, need a bonus-point win, plenty of tries and the Crusaders to lose to give them even a slight chance of lifting the trophy. Needing to score at least three more tries than the Chiefs, the Canes will be coming out all guns blazing, while the Chiefs have just pride on the line. Hurricanes by 12

Sunday, August 9

Crusaders vs. Highlanders, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch, 1:35pm (AEST)

Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Whetu Douglas, Tom Christie, Tom Sanders, Quinten Strange, Samuel Whitelock, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor (c), Joe Moody.

Replacements: Andrew Makalio, George Bower, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Sione Havili, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, Leicester Fainga'anuku.

Highlanders: Mitch Hunt, Josh McKay, Michael Collins, Sio Tomkinson, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Aaron Smith, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Dillon Hunt, Shannon Frizell, Jack Whetton, Pari Pari Parkinson, Jeff Thwaites, Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone.

Replacements: Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Folau Fakatava, Ngatugnane Punivai, Jesse Parete

Odds [tab.com.au]: Crusaders $1.11 (-16.5 $1.90), Highlanders $6.50 (+16.5 $1.90)

Verdict: With the chance to seal the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa title a week early, in front of a sold-out home crowd, the Crusaders will no doubt hit the ground guns-blazing. While the Highlanders are sure to put up a fight and make a statement, the Crusaders recent form makes it hard to believe they won't be crowned champions on Sunday evening. Despite dropping Round 7 against the Hurricanes, the Crusaders have been the form side of the competition, securing impressive wins throughout the tournament - including a 40-20 victory against the Highlanders in Dunedin earlier in the season. With Richie Mo'ongu putting on a show so far this season, he'll no doubt lead his side to another impressive win and another Super Rugby title. Crusaders by 10

BYE: Blues