Saturday 29th July
Crusaders vs. Chiefs @ AMI Stadium, Christchurch 5:35pm (AEST)
Key stats (Opta Stats)
The Crusaders have never lost a finals fixture when playing as the home team on the day (W17).
James Lowe has made 37 clean breaks so far this season, four more than any other player, and has found the try line in five of his last six games against the Crusaders.
Crusaders: David Havili, Israel Dagg, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Tim Nanai-Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-c), Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Mitchell Brown, Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames. Reserves: Liam Polwart, Aidan Ross, Atu Moli, Dominic Bird, Lachlan Boshier, Finlay Christie, Stephen Donald, Shaun Stevenson.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has named an unchanged side for the team's third Super Rugby semifinal against the Chiefs -- who have won both previous fixtures in Hamilton. "They used their homeground advantage on those occasions, but this time we have earned the chance to play in front of our own supporters and that means a lot to us," Robertson said.
Charlie Ngatai will replace Stephen Donald in the Chiefs' starting backline after missing the quarterfinal in Cape Town last week, with the latter on the bench. There is one other change to the Chiefs' side, with Tim Nanai-Williams promoted from the reserves to start on the right wing in place of Solomon Alaimalo.
Greg Growden's tip: Crusaders Sam Bruce's tip: Crusaders John Goliath's tip: Crusaders
The Crusaders have been the best team in the competition this year and will back themselves against a Chiefs outfit that has flown halfway around the world -- and back -- over the past week. The last 20 minutes of the match will be crucial, and the Chiefs will need to dig deep if they are to prevail.
TAB verdict: On face value it looks an attractive price for a quality Chiefs outfit. But of the 11 times a Super Rugby semifinal has been an all-New Zealand affair, 10 of those have been won by the home team. The Crusaders were clinical and defensively perfect in awful conditions against the Highlanders last week, while the Chiefs have to travel back from South Africa and that should be telling in the final 20 minutes. Tip: Crusaders -7.5 @ $1.90
Saturday 29th July
Lions vs. Hurricanes @ Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg, 10:30pm (AEST)
Key stats (Opta Stats)
This will be the Hurricanes' first ever finals game in South Africa, where they've won four of their last five games (including two wins against the Lions).
The Hurricanes (39) and Lions (38) average the most points scored per game of any teams in the competition so far this season, while each has also conceded a league-low 18 points per game.
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrink, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Ruan Ackermann, Albertus Smith, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Malcom Marx, Jacques van Rooyen. Reserves: Akker vd Merwe, Corne Fourie, Johannes Jonker, Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Faf de Klerk, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sylvian Mahuza.
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Beuaden barrett, TJ Perenara, Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Mark Abbott, Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben May. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Reed Prinsep, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, Julian Savea.
The Lions have named an unchanged side from their quarter-final win over the Sharks last weekend.
The Hurricanes have made two changes to their starting line-up, including captain Dane Coles returning to the starting position for his 100th Hurricanes appearance, Vince Aso will make his return to the centres in a reshuffled backline. With Aso's return, wing Julian Savea has been forced to the bench, Jordie Barrett has been pushed into fullback and Nehe Milner-Skudder will move to the wing.
Greg Growden's tip: Hurricanes Sam Bruce's tip: Lions John Goliath's tip: Lions
This is not going to be your usual arm-wrestle, "finals footy" Super Rugby semifinal. Ellis Park is going to be bone dry and the pitch fast, setting the stage for these two wonderful attacking teams to have a crack. It's going to fast and furious, and it may come down to who makes the least mistakes on the day.
TAB verdict: The early bets this week were for the Hurricanes despite having to do it the hard way with a trip to Johannesburg. But the hard way looks the best way as the battle-hardened defending champions take on a Lions side which hasn't had to face a Kiwi side all season and were underwhelming victors against the Sharks last weekend. Tip: Hurricanes @ $1.77