Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: Lions forward pack threaten Chiefs

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The Chiefs' Damian McKenzie is knocked off his feet against the Crusaders in Christchurch last Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
The Chiefs' Damian McKenzie is knocked off his feet against the Crusaders in Christchurch last Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

Sam Cane is expecting a full-on physical confrontation from the tough Lions forward pack at FMG Stadium Waikato tomorrow night.

The Chiefs co-captain knows the set piece strengths of their visitors from Johannesburg who got off to a winning start with an historic 26-13 win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

The Lions will also be keenly aware how the Crusaders pack mauled the Chiefs scrum at times in Christchurch last Saturday as the Chiefs opened their Super Rugby campaign with a memorable 27-21 victory.

"Our clean-out and ruck work can be a lot better and there are things we can sharpen up on. Against the Lions this week, they are a pretty difficult South African side and they pride themselves on the scrum and rightly so," Cane said.

"They have a pretty good scrum so we have been doing a lot to make sure we are better in that area because obviously we leaked a few points via the scrum last weekend."

Cane was most pleased with the "ticker the boys showed" against the Crusaders.

"There was a lot more urgency and physicality from pre-season into the actual competition. A lot of guys stepped up and brought much more intensity so that was pleasing.

"It was good to see some of the structure that we train on the training pitch correlate and get out on the park so I think it was reassuring for boys to know that when we get the ball through the hands and hold onto it for a period of time, we actually looked pretty sharp and obviously scored points off it. It was a good confidence boost to know what we are doing can work."

Cane and first-five Aaron Cruden are sharing the captaincy duties this season with Liam Messam on duty with the All Blacks Sevens.

Cane said the new arrangement was working well so far.

"It is trucking along quite smoothly. We are doing quite a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that stays the case but I think we complement each other fairly well and it is helpful we have a lot of our other leaders on the park in the form of Charlie Ngatai, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Brodie Retallick who are helping to share the load."

With so much rugby to be played this year the players have to carefully plan every week, which Cane said was fundamental to long term success.

"Each Saturday you want to be primed and ready to go so you can't train hard out all week, you have to build the week up slowly. Last year was a good learning curve. I played a lot of minutes for the Chiefs but came out of it and the body was still in good nick."

"A lot of that is down to communicating with our trainers and the physio staff and just being honest with how you are feeling so that ultimately you get the best out of your body."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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