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NZ RUGBY AOTEAROA ROUND 9

WELLINGTON HURRICANES VS WAIKATO CHIEFS

SATURDAY AUGUST 8, 7.05 PM, SKY STADIUM, WELLINGTON

Wellington have cooled their heels and licked their wounds all with the smile of a Cheshire cat after enjoying the bye last weekend, following their triumphant victory against the previously unbeaten Crusaders.  Now they face the Chiefs who battled stoically against the enraged Crusaders in round 8, only to come up well short, losing by 13.  Waikato are well sunk in this battle for the original Aotearoa championship, without having recorded a win in the first 8 rounds, while Wellington are long-shots in the first-past-the-post format, needing other results to accompany them with wins to stand a chance.  Windy Wellington will live up to the title during this clash with cold winds belting in, at up to 47 km/hr, leaving little doubt skill will be required in passing let alone trying to master accurate kicking.

Laumape and Lam’s absence from the side forces a reshuffle for Wellington in the Backs, with Van Wyk called upon as well as Vince Aso; a broken wrist seems certainly to have ended Ngani Laumape’s season.  Prop Lomax and Hooker Dane Coles are also included in the Hurricanes line-up after missing the epic victory against Canterbury, which sees Aumua drop to the bench, though Armstrong misses entirely after a shoulder issue forced him off.  A bunch of new faces are on the bench for Wellington, including Rakete-Stones, Le’aupepe, Billy Proctor and Jonah Lowe.  Cruden is omitted from the Chiefs line-up with young Trask again trusted with the 10 jersey, in the only change to the Chiefs backline.  Boshier is out of the side, while Vaa’i drops to the bench for Waikato as Jacobsen and Ah Kuoi get a chance to start.  Slater also starts from the bench after a big work-rate for the gun Hooker while O’Neill is out due to a hamstring issue, they are replaced in the starting pack by Taukei’aho and Oliver Norris.  New faces on the bench are Rob Cobb, Mitch Karpik and Kiniviliame Naholo in an effort to give young players a chance at the back on the season, that is effectively over for the side.

Wellington hold a dominant record against the Chiefs of late having won 13 from the last 16 at this venue, and the last 3 straight as well as not having lost at any venue to them in the last 5.  Waikato are in the midst of a franchise record losing streak, having not recorded a win in 8 matches, after enjoying very good recent seasons.  Wellington have won 4 straight also, leaving this match statistically lopsided.  Hence the $1.47 odds are fair for Wellington while Waikato is at $2.80, despite a tiny margin prediction of a try.  Expect the fact that Wellington are in with a chance to steal a title off Canterbury to see the Hurricanes to the win, while Boshier is a major out for Waikato.

PREDICTION: Wellington to play good Rugby Union and win by 10, despite the major loss of Laumape, their leading attacker.

BETTING TIP: $2.50 is nice odds for the 1-12 margin market for a Wellington win.