Rugby: Chiefs opener win for Taupo

By Peter White


Super rugby champions the Chiefs kick-off their pre-season with a game against the Highlanders at Owen Delany Park, Taupo on Saturday afternoon.

Taupo has embraced the opportunity to see some of the best talent in New Zealand rugby on show with a large, enthusiastic crowd expected to attend the match which kicks off at 3pm.

The Chiefs' All Blacks will be on tour with the team, but as they returned to camp on Monday they are not expected to play. However, they will be on hand to meet and greet the fans.

"Every player who is fit will get a run. It is an opportunity for guys to make an impression for selection come competition time," said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

"For us, this trial is about getting our structures right on the park and getting our set piece going right."

NZ Maori All Blacks captain on their end-of-year tour last year, Tanerau Latimer, is one of the most experienced players in the Chiefs squad, with 76 games to his name in the jersey.

The 26-year-old's career started early when he was plucked from Tauranga Boys' College First XV into the NZ Sevens team for the Wellington tournament in 2004 when he was just 17 and he played five tests for the All Blacks in 2009.

Preparing for a new season is all about conditioning for the superbly fit Latimer, especially when your first game is under the fierce February heat which puts the players under real physical stress.

"Definitely, the key thing is conditioning and preparing properly for these games," Latimer said.

"We have been training at the game time [3pm] over in Hamilton and it has been stinking hot there, so no doubt it will be the same on Saturday."

The Highlanders will be physically tough opponents - coached by Jamie Joseph they only know one way to play - but Latimer says they are ideal opponents first up to get some serious match contact.

"It is ideal because we have them in round one in a few weeks' time. I am sure they won't show all their cards, and neither will we, but we will get a good gauge on where they are at and where we are at. "Since Christmas we have been getting the bodies back into contact and conditioning, along with fitness."

For the first time the Chiefs are preparing for a new Super rugby season as defending champions and the players are well aware of the difference that makes.

Latimer has noticed a different attitude around the team as champions and it is a situation he would love to replicate again.

"It has made a big difference to team culture and has raised the standards in and around the place at trainings and I guess the way we act in public.

"People always want to talk about it and we just need to be obliging and that is how we will get the backing of the public.

"But it all starts again from this weekend, but we would love to go back-to-back and win the title again."

The Chiefs team will run an invitation-only coaching clinic for local rugby players at Tongariro Domain in Tongariro St, Taupo, from 4pm today. The public are welcome to view the session and after the clinic the team will be available for autographs.


The match

Kick off for the Chiefs v Highlanders match is at 3pm at Owen Delany Park in Taupo and tickets are available from www.ticketdirect.co.nz, www.chiefs.co.nz or at the gate.

Prices are $15 for adults on the embankment and $25 for a grandstand seat. Children, 14 and under, are free on the embankment. Gates open at 2pm.

 

- Bay of Plenty Times

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