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Lions Scout – Super Rugby Round Eight

Lions Scout – Super Rugby Round Eight

Super Rugby is in full swing and with the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand getting ever closer, we’re keeping a close eye on everything happening Down Under.

Indeed the 49-times capped All Black will be making his first appearance in over a year for the Crusaders after a combination of thigh and shoulder injuries. 

Super Rugby is in full swing and with the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand getting ever closer, we’re keeping a close eye on everything happening Down Under.

As we prepare for round eight, we've picked out some of the key points from the weekend ahead, particularly in New Zealand.
 
Dagg is back 

Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder has made five changes to his side for their first ever meeting with the Jaguares and the headline is the return of Israel Dagg.

The Christchurch fixture kicks-off the Round 8 action and Dagg will be making his first appearance of the year.

Indeed the 49-times capped All Black will be making his first appearance in over a year for the Crusaders after a combination of thigh and shoulder injuries. 

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Dagg missed out on selection for the World Cup and subsequently has had to watch on as Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs has grabbed the spotlight at the start of the 2016 Super Rugby season. 

But with Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo both injured – Dagg's return to fitness is very timely and he will be hoping to continue Crusaders’ fine run of form having won five matches on the spin. 

Should they make it six it will be the first time since 2011 that they have done and Dagg will want to hit the ground running to give All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen a reminder of his qualities. 

Umaga resists urge for sweeping changes

Having won just two of their opening six Super Rugby fixtures the Blues go into Saturday’s evening kick-off at Eden Park in need of a win.

They face a Sharks side who have had a similarly mixed start to the season and who will also be looking to get back to winning ways after last week’s mauling by the Lions.

Blues head coach Tana Umaga has avoided making reactionary changes to his starting XV after last week’s loss to Chiefs, instead just tinkering with his lineup.

Lolagi Visinia has recovered from injury to retake his starting spot at fullback but All Black Under-20 star Blake Gibson will be a loss after injuring his thumb in training this week.

The flanker may require surgery on his hand and is set to be out of the game until after June’s international break.

His replacement looks set to be Tanerau Latimer who would be making his Blues debut after only a week of full training with his new teammates.
 
High-scoring Hurricanes looking to blow Rebels away

After two losses in the opening two rounds Hurricanes have stormed back with four straight wins and are looking to strengthen their position just above the Rebels in the Australasian Group.

After a convincing win over Jaguares last week Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd has made three changes to his side.

The high-scoring Hurricanes – they’ve scored 40 points in each of their last three outings – bring in Vince Aso and Matt Proctor as a new centre pairing and Vaea Fifita starts in place of Blade Thomson in the second row.

Boyd’s side have recorded the fourth highest try tally in Super Rugby this season having touched down 22 times and in Beauden Barrett they also have the fourth highest point scorer with 72.

Rebels go into the game sitting out of the play-off spots but knowing a win over Hurricanes would jump them into the final wildcard spot in the Australasian group.

Pick of the weekend

No Kiwi sides involved in this but the tie of the round pits the Lions against the Stormers at Emirates Airlines Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

A bonus-point win for the home side would see them go level on points with their Cape Town rivals at the top of the South African Group.

Both sides come into the game on the back of comfortable wins last weekend and Lions coach Johan Ackermann has named an unchanged lineup from the one that saw off the Sharks 24-9.

Robbie Fleck has made four changes to his Stormers side, three in the pack and two in the back division.

Prop JC Janse van Rensburg comes in to replace Oli Kebble with Nizaam Carr starting at openside flanker in place of Siya Kolisi.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi is another new addition to the front row, who will hope to link up well with incoming scrum-half Nic Groom.
 
Leaders take a week off

After the exertions of their dramatic win over the Blues in the last round, Chiefs go into a bye week safe in the knowledge they cannot be toppled from their perch atop the Australasian Group.

The Waikato side made it ten straight victories over the Blues with a comeback win to maintain their impressive start to the season.

With six wins from seven games Dave Rennie’s side have impressed in Super Rugby’s opening rounds but this week the club announced that scrum-half Augustine Pulu will join the Blues in 2017.

The 26-year-old has not yet played for the Chiefs this season due to injury and his commitments with the All Blacks Sevens side.

After 51 appearances for the club in the past four years he will join the Blues for next season.

Last year's champions the Highlanders also get a rest this week as they look to recuperate from a punishing one-point loss to the Reds last weekend.

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