WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) The second round of Super Rugby may reveal more of the strength of the New Zealand teams, which swept their matches in the opening round.
The defending champion Hurricanes, the Auckland-based Blues, the seven-time champion Crusaders and the Chiefs all won, while the Highlanders were the only losers, beaten narrowly by the Chiefs.
The Hurricanes’ 83-17 win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo did little to test the strength of their title defense – they scored 13 tries with a number of top players either out of action or on the bench.
The Queensland Reds and New South Wales Waratahs were the only Australian winners in the first round. The Waratahs struggled to a 19-13 win over the Perth-based Western Force and the Reds beat South Africa’s Sharks 28-26 in Brisbane.
In South Africa, last year’s finalists the Johannesburg-based Lions defeated the Cheetahs in a scrappy derby and the Cape Town-based Stormers beat the Pretoria-based Bulls. The Southern Kings lost 39-26 to the Buenos Aires-based Jaguares.
Matches between the Chiefs and Blues on Friday and the Highlanders and Crusaders on Saturday will more closely measure the strength of the New Zealand teams.
”I think it goes without saying how intense these games (between New Zealand teams) are,” Blues coach Tana Umaga said. ”That first game between the Chiefs and Highlanders looked pretty brutal so nothing has changed from last year. Although we got a good win it was a bit rusty and they exposed a few things that we have to fix otherwise a Chiefs outfit that is very good at exploiting holes on counter-attack will mean we get done.”
The Crusaders have lost flyhalf Richie Mo’unga for up to two months with a broken hand.
”I think in patches we played well. We attacked really well,” assistant coach Leon MacDonald said. ”Some of the handling was fantastic but we mixed it with over-excitement and trying to do a few too many things. It was a typical first-up game.”
The second round begins Thursday in Perth when the Western Force hosts Queensland. Among other matches on Saturday, Melbourne travels to Wellington to play the Hurricanes, the Brumbies host the Sharks in Canberra and the Sunwolves, as they did last season, play one of their ”home” games in Singapore against the Kings.
Later Saturday in South Africa, the Waratahs play the Lions in Johannesburg, the Stormers host the Jaguares in Cape Town and the Cheetahs play the Bulls.