Rugby: Chiefs pass up chance to sign sevens player Ahki

Pita Ahki. Photo / File
Pita Ahki. Photo / File

The Chiefs have decided not to sign New Zealand sevens player Pita Ahki as a replacement for injured midfielder Richard Kahui.

Unable to bring in Casey Laulala from Munster, the Chiefs cast their net towards Gordon Tietjens' sevens world series winners, but it is understood they have decided against calling on Ahki as the 20-year-old will soon be preparing for the Sevens World Cup to be held in Moscow on June 28-30.

Ahki, a former New Zealand under-20s player, is a member of the Blues' wider training squad. However, franchises can be forced to give up such players if injury dictates they could get a starting role elsewhere. The Chiefs were forced to give up Maritino Nemani to the Highlanders this season, the wing sinbinned for a high tackle in the southerners' 35-18 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria this morning.

For Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, the search continues. "We've got someone in mind," he said. "We're going to bring him in for a couple of days to make sure he is physically ready to go before we make a commitment."

Although Rennie watched midfielder Charlie Ngatai and prop Ben Afeaki leave the Westpac Stadium pitch injured in the 17-12 victory over the Hurricanes, they will be available to play the Crusaders in Hamilton on Friday night.

Rennie said the pair had suffered cramp - in Afeaki's case in both hamstrings - due mainly to their recent light training loads.

Flanker Sam Cane, who has had a back problem, will also be available to play the Crusaders in what has the potential to be a big occasion at Waikato Stadium.

"They were very strong defensively," Rennie noted of the Crusaders during their comprehensive 23-3 victory over the Blues in Christchurch. "They're starting to get back to near their best. Certainly they've got a very good kicking game and they played at the right end of the field. They can suffocate you down there.

"To keep the Blues tryless was a good effort. We'll have to go pretty well and challenge them in a lot of areas to break down their defence."

In contrast, the Chiefs were forced to scrap for their win in Wellington, although their defence was also excellent as they counted down the final 10 minutes with only 14 men after Ben Tameifuna's sinbinning.

"That's the benchmark of where we need to be," Rennie said. "Getting four points against the Hurricanes was important. It strengthens our position and puts them under a bit more pressure."

The Crusaders have injury issues of their own, although they are minor compared with the Chiefs.

Crusaders hooker Ben Funnell, who received a late call-up to start against the Blues after Corey Flynn's hamstring strain in the warm-up, has suffered a minor knee ligament injury. Todd Blackadder has called in Taranaki hooker Laurence Corlett as cover.

Utility back Adam Whitelock also suffered a knee injury and is in doubt.

- APNZ

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