Kiwis v Mate Ma’a Tonga, 5:40pm Saturday, Mt Smart Stadium
Key storyline: It’s rep round in the league world, with all attention focused on the rematch between these two sides that’s been two years in the making. The last time they met was a stunning 24-22 win to the Tongans at the Rugby League World Cup, in which they memorably made the semi-finals. Meanwhile, the Kiwis crashed out with a loss to Fiji.
Will it be sweet or stink: This will be very sweet, for the fact that this will be the most atmospheric sporting event in Aotearoa this year. The Tongan community will show up in their thousands for this one, and if it’s anything like the last time they played this will probably feel like a home game for Tonga. Prediction: Kiwis by 2
Before that game, there’s a historic match between the Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa on Mt Smart as well. Elsewhere, Toa Samoa play Papua New Guinea and Fiji play Lebanon. On Sunday night it’s State of Origin II in Perth, with NSW looking to bounce back from their opening defeat of the series to Queensland.
Crusaders v Highlanders, 7:35pm tonight, Christchurch Stadium
Key storyline: The Crusaders got one of the teams they probably didn’t want in the quarter finals, because the Highlanders have been playing pretty well. Meanwhile the Crusaders have been quite flat for the last month of Super Rugby, so this will be a real test of their resolve as they look to win a third straight title.
Will it be sweet or stink? Depends whether the Crusaders can hit the kill switch like they’ve done so much this season, suddenly gaining the ability to race in three or so tries and finish the game just after halftime. Prediction: Crusaders by 10
Jaguares v Chiefs, 10am Saturday, Estadio Jose Emalfitani
Key storyline: All of a sudden, the Chiefs find themselves with a very good shot at winning Super Rugby. This game will be very much a final, they’ve had to travel all the way to Buenos Aires this week, but they are the only team to go to Los Jaguares home this year and come away with a win.
Will it be sweet or stink? This may well be the game of the round, because the Chiefs have nothing to lose after starting the season 0-4. They are playing the best football of anyone right now. Prediction: Chiefs by 3
Hurricanes v Bulls, 7:35pm Saturday, Westpac Stadium
Key storyline: A lot has been said about the Blues losing last weekend, but not much about how the Hurricanes came back and won. They did it without Beauden Barrett, but he’s back now, and the Canes are quietly building towards another finals charge while everyone focuses on the Crusaders.
Will it be sweet or stink? The Canes can’t afford to fall behind like they did last week, because the Bulls do have the firepower and defensive capabilities to hang on and build a lead. That said, the Canes will be back to full strength with the likes of Barrett, TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea back on deck. Prediction: Canes by 20