Super Rugby

McKenzie, Leali'ifano go head-to-head

Christian Leali'ifano (TEAMTalk Media)
Christian Leali'ifano (TEAMTalk Media)

Wellington - Super rugby's leading scorers Damian McKenzie and Christian Leali'ifano go head-to-head on Saturday when the Chiefs and Brumbies promise a points-laden trans-Tasman showdown in Canberra.

The table-topping clash in the Australasian arm of the championship is only matched for intrigue by the polar opposite game in the African group, where winless newcomers the Kings and the Sunwolves will be battling for their first ever victory.

The Chiefs are full of confidence after cementing their place as the most enterprising team in the competition with a nine-try thrashing of Australia's Western Force last weekend.

But it has been eight years since they last won in Canberra where the ACT Brumbies, as the second-best performing side, can count on home support as they bid to match the free-scoring Chiefs.

Coach Dave Rennie's attack-minded Chiefs have scored 200 points in five matches, they also lead the try-count with 28, with an impressive 70 clean breaks. McKenzie is the competition's top points-scorer with 85.

By comparison, the Brumbies have amassed the second highest number of points with 151, the second best tries tally of 19, and Leali'ifano is second on the points table with 57.

Elsewhere, the Southern Kings and Tokyo's Sunwolves battle in Port Elizabeth on Saturday to notch their first win, with the odds favouring an historic maiden triumph for the Japanese side.

The Sunwolves are at least on the board after their bonus points for narrow losses against the Central Cheetahs and Northern Bulls, while the Kings, with no points so far, also have the travel factor against them as they return from their two-match road trip to New Zealand.

The Crusaders have made four changes as they wind up their South Africa tour against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg, with both sides having three wins from four matches.

Notable changes include benching All Blacks Sam Whitelock and Joe Moody, although they are replaced by two more New Zealand internationals in Luke Romano and Wyatt Crockett.

The Lions are the only side to get the better of the Chiefs this year, and Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar expects an open game in the mould of a New Zealand derby.

"They shape as, potentially, the strongest South African team in the competition," Mooar said.

"At the moment they are playing more like a Kiwi side than a traditional South African side."

New Argentine side the Jaguares open their New Zealand swing resting several big names - including Agustin Creevy, Santiago Cordero and Juan Manuel Leguizamon - for Saturday's match with the Auckland Blues.

Coach Raul Perez has made nine changes to his team while the struggling Blues have swapped four, handing a first start to former Saracens centre Piers Francis.

The Bulls have suffered a setback ahead of their match against the Cheetahs with fullback Warrick Gelant out for at least six weeks after breaking his jaw against the Sunwolves last weekend.

The Cheetahs have just one win so far but will be feeling good after picking up a bonus point for their close finish against the Brumbies.

The Highlanders open the weekend at home to the Force who have not travelled well in New Zealand, having conceded 41 points against the Wellington Hurricanes and then 53 against the Chiefs in the past two weeks.

In the remaining weekend game the Waratahs are at home to the Rebels who currently lie second in the Australia conference.

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