Rugby: Kahui satisfied to sit in the stands

By Dylan Cleaver

Richard Kahui. Photo / Christine Cornege
Richard Kahui. Photo / Christine Cornege

He's got a neat line of stitches above his right eye, a nose that's slowly starting to feel like it belongs to him again and a crack in his eye-socket that sees air rush up through the nostril and collect around the eye, puffing it up.

"It's nothing too serious," says Richard Kahui, quite seriously.

If it made the difference between the Chiefs beating the Hurricanes tomorrow night, Kahui would put his face in the line of fire again.

It's become the Chiefs way: get up off the deck and make your next tackle. It's the not-so-secret secret behind the stingiest defence in the competition. They're going to need all of that as they face a Hurricanes side bolstered by the return of Cory Jane, Julian Savea and livewire halfback TJ Perenara.

"When you play any team, you want to play them at full strength," Kahui said.

"Obviously CJ's world class and Julian has grown as a rugby player. It's great they're playing but it provides more challenges for us. We'll have to work pretty hard to shut them down."

Shutting down time and space is something the Chiefs have been very good at during their seven-match winning run.

Creating things with the ball in hand has been more of a struggle.

As admirable as their win against the Sharks in a hot and humid Durban last week was, the common thread yesterday was of a dissatisfied locker room in the aftermath.

"While we're winning, there was a real deflated feeling, one of under-achievement. That's a positive feeling in a way, knowing we've won a game without playing anywhere near our potential."

It's easier to say those sort of things with an unprecedented seven-game winning streak behind you, but the Chiefs hope to finally unlock that potential against a talented but flighty Hurricanes side.

"It has been a demanding three weeks," coach Dave Rennie said. "We know it is going to be a tough encounter against the Hurricanes this weekend. They will be grumpy and have a few of their key players coming back so it will be a hard battle."

The home side, who are expecting a crowd in excess of 15,000, are also buoyed by the return of two old mates.

Brendon Leonard and Toby Smith return after hamstring and calf tears respectively. Leonard will slot straight into the No 9 jersey worn so ably by Tawera Kerr-Barlow in his absence, while Smith will return from the bench.

Both have been missed, but not nearly as much as first feared.

While Kerr-Barlow is still prone to lapsing into scatter-gun mode, his threat from the base has kept defences honest over the past two months.

Smith bolsters a front-row corps that looked seriously thin when he and Ben Afeaki were crocked in round one, but now looks formidable.

With Sona Taumalolo on a try-scoring tear and Ben Tameifuna proving hard to shift in the scrums, Smith's return now gives Rennie the choice he has not enjoyed since week one.

- NZ Herald

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