Titan 10s clash in race to replace Carter
Wellington - Aaron Cruden and Beauden
Barrett go head-to-head in the battle to succeed Dan Carter as All Blacks
flyhalf in Saturday's Super Rugby clash between the Chiefs and Hurricanes.
Carter's mastery in the 10 jersey made him
a three-time world player of the year and his departure from the international
scene has created intense competition in New Zealand with Cruden and Barrett
The Chiefs have been the pace-setters in
Super Rugby this year and with Cruden returning to his peak after missing last
year's World Cup through injury, the Waikato unit have won six out of seven
Barrett's Hurricanes have also recovered
from a woeful start to the season to win five consecutive games after losing
the first two.
Sandwiched between the two in the New
Zealand conference are the Canterbury Crusaders, who are in Canberra to play
old Australian rivals the ACT Brumbies.
The Stormers and Golden Lions, who lead the
two African conferences, play the lowly Reds and Kings respectively.
The Chiefs head to Wellington refreshed
after a bye and with Cruden commanding the competition's most potent backline,
where he is developing a strong partnership with fullback Damian McKenzie.
The pair mix their roles on the field in a
way that has helped McKenzie become the tournament's top try-scorer and overall
"Our game plan allows us to both get
into first receiver and jump around a bit so I think it's going well,"
said McKenzie, whose flyhalf skills have also been rated highly by All Blacks
coach Steve Hansen.
With the departure of veteran All Blacks
Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith at the end of last year, and a season-ending injury
to Nehe Milner-Skudder, Barrett does not enjoy the same level of support as
But he has been able to keep the Hurricanes
competitive as evidenced by his two tries and four conversions last week when
he oversaw a 38-13 win against the Rebels.
Defending champions the Highlanders start
the weekend at home to the Sharks, who are looking to recover from their loss
to the Blues at the start of their New Zealand tour last week.
The Highlanders, with Lima Sopoaga another
contender for All Blacks flyhalf, won five straight before a shock loss to the
Reds and have since had a bye to give themselves time to find out what went
Captain Ben Smith, who missed the Reds
surprise, also returns to the starting line-up.
The Sharks made a strong start to the year
but after losing their past three matches they have undergone some serious
soul-searching this week.
"We had a tough meeting on Monday
about the things we got wrong and discussed where we are and where we want to
go," said JP Pietersen, who will start at centre against the Highlanders.
The Brumbies will provide a measure of
where Australian rugby is at when they host a Crusaders side brimming with
confidence after posting six wins on the trot.
The Brumbies and Crusaders were the
competition's leading rivals in the early 2000s, but it has been nine years
since the Australians last tasted success.
The Jaguares, following a disappointing
three-loss swing through New Zealand, will be looking to notch their second win
when they play fellow Super Rugby newcomers the Sunwolves in Tokyo.
For the Sunwolves, it represents a chance
to regain some lost pride after their embarrassing 92-17 loss to the Central
Cheetahs last week.
The Cheetahs are in Melbourne to meet the
Rebels, who lie second in the Australian conference, while the Force host the
Waratahs in Perth.