Super Rugby: High expectations of 2.04m lock

By Kelly Exelby

The drums are already beating for Brodie Retallick's elevation into the All Blacks after three big performances in Super Rugby, although the 20-year-old lock's chief concern is whether he's still got a bed in Tauranga for the winter.

Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie is leading the Retallick cheer charge but the young second rower is becoming expert at deflecting the hype as he prepares for his first game at Mt Maunganui's Baypark Stadium tomorrow night in the round four Super Rugby clash with the unbeaten Brumbies.

Baypark will be Retallick's home for the ITM Cup this year after he signed with the Bay of Plenty Steamers. His arrival at the Chiefs from Hawke's Bay dovetailed with cousin Culum Retallick's departure from the franchise after two seasons. Culum, 27, is now locking the Highlanders scrum and the pair will pack down together for Bay of Plenty during the ITM Cup.

Locks clearly run in the family but Retallick said his decision to move north, following Chiefs forwards coach Tom Coventry from Hawke's Bay, had caused a bit of consternation after Rennie told Culum he didn't figure in his Super Rugby plans.

"There was a bit of banter around the time I signed for the Chiefs and it was a different situation, me arriving and him leaving, although I think he knew by the time I'd signed that he was heading to the Highlanders.

"The plan coming to the Steamers was to play for a province that was part of the Chiefs [catchment] so there wasn't too much moving around between seasons and it was easy to come over and live with Culum for a few months. We're still on talking terms so that arrangement's hopefully still good."

At 2.04m Retallick is the tallest lock with any of the New Zealand teams. He won the world title with the New Zealand under-20s in Italy last year but drove into Hamilton last November unsure of his playing prospects. With Waikato's Romana Graham banned for the first six weeks of this season after a head butt last year, Retallick got the jump and has looked every inch a Super Rugby regular.

Rennie, who courted Retallick based on his form for the Magpies, instinct and Coventry's overtures, is thrilled with the rookie's progress.

"I thought Brodie was our best player against the Highlanders [week one] and has continued to perform," he said. "He's another big man and his aerial work is greatly improved. He's a smart kid and understands there is a long way to go in this competition."

Rennie has re-shuffled the Chiefs lineup, backs and forwards, after the win over the Crusaders. Bay of Plenty's Tanerau Latimer and Sam Cane will play left-right flankers, with Liam Messam moving to No 8 in place of Kane Thompson.

Jackson Willison starts at centre, and Richard Kahui moves to the wing to replace Asaeli Tikoirotuma who is on bereavement leave. Chiefs development players Josh Hohneck (prop) and Marcel Cummings-Toone (hooker) come onto the bench, as does loose forward Scott Waldrom.

Retallick, the nephew of former Canterbury and All Black prop John Ashworth (his mum is Ashworth's sister), was raised in Amberley, playing in the first XV rugby and rowing for Christchurch Boys' High School.

He played for Canterbury Metro under-18 but was then not wanted in the Canterbury academy, prompting him to chuck in his lot with the red and blacks and head to Hawke's Bay, where Ashworth was coaching in Waipukurau. He admits it was tough to turn his back on his old province. "I went to school there and played age group rugby there but as soon as I left school there didn't seem to be anything going on. Hawke's Bay got in touch and offered me a contract and I haven't looked back."

All of which left him with a sizeable point to prove last Friday in Napier against the team he grew up watching as a schoolkid.

"There was a point to prove but I go out with that attitude every week because I'm trying to hold my starting position. My goals coming to the Chiefs were to push for a position in the 22, probably more of a learning year. You always aim to start without really knowing what the outcome will be."

Height alone won't earn Retallick an All Blacks jersey but his impressive workrate and skill in the air makes him an international prospect. He's happy if the Chiefs pack keep proving the pundits wrong.

"There was quite a bit of talk around the traps and in the media that the tight five might not be up to it this season, and what better pack to do it against last week than Canterbury? On a personal level I don't read too much into what's being written because you can always improve on what you did the week before. But I pride myself on defence and winning the aerial battle so if I can keep that tight and contribute to the team then good."

Chiefs v Brumbies7.35pm, tomorrow night, Baypark Stadium

Chiefs: Arizona Taumalolo, Mahonri Schwalger, Ben Tameifuna, Craig Clarke, Brodie Retallick, Tanerau Latimer, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Tim Nanai-Williams, Sonny Bill Williams, Jackson Willison, Richard Kahui, Robbie Robinson. Reserves: Marcel Cummings-Toone, Josh Hohneck, Kane Thompson, Scott Waldrom, Augustine Pulu, Andrew Horrell, Maritino Nemani.

Brumbies squad: Ben Alexander, Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Anthony Hegerty, Zack Holmes, Michael Hooper, Peter Kimlin, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe, Jesse Mogg, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, Ruaidhri Murphy, Dan Palmer, Leon Power, Ian Prior, Andrew Smith, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Ita Vaea, Nic White.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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