Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Chiefs turn inside out for a win

The Chiefs have pulled their side apart in their search to be Super 15 regular-season champions. Photo / Getty Images
The Chiefs have pulled their side apart in their search to be Super 15 regular-season champions. Photo / Getty Images

The Chiefs have pulled their side apart in their search to be Super 15 regular-season champions.

Five of the previous selection have been moved to the reserves for tomorrow's last pool game with the Hurricanes while their replacements have been boosted by the return of regular captain Craig Clarke from illness and No 8 Kane Thompson who has recovered from a back injury.

Then there are the positional switches with Andrew Horrell moving to fullback and Robbie Robinson shifting to the wing, while Alex Bradley and Romana Graham drop out of the 22-man match squad.

Former All Black flanker Tanerau Latimer has been promoted to the starting line-up again after a strong season while his young All Black teammate, Sam Cane, can be used from the bench like wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma, who has been a franchise standout this season.

There's pressure on the Chiefs, whose set-piece collapsed against the Crusaders last round, while the Hurricanes are chasing a bonus point win which may give them a rough chance of making the playoffs.

"We've made a few changes but it's in line with what we've done over the past few weeks - things like the frontrowers sharing the load and a couple of guys coming back in from injury," said coach Dave Rennie.

Horrell had been outstanding for the Chiefs before he was injured and they wanted him at fullback again where he had starred, while Robinson had shifted to the flank to give Tikoirotuma a rest.

"We want to make sure it's a competitive environment and there are guys scrapping for positions in the semifinal. We're looking at a couple of guys for that game.

"It's important that we have more than 15 guys fizzing along, we need the whole squad to be successful. If we get things right and play to our potential, we should put in a good performance in this game."

Tighthead prop Ben Afeaki wasn't quite ready after his concussion but hoped to play some club rugby next weekend.

The Hurricanes have also ramped up their side, with Victor Vito returning to No8 after a knee injury from the first test against Ireland, and Cory Jane bracketed on the wing after being sidelined with an ankle problem.

A year ago, the Chiefs finished 10th in the inaugural revamped series but they're guaranteed a top-two finish and will end up outright leaders if they can claim a bonus point victory at the Cake Tin. They beat the Hurricanes 33-14 in their first meeting at Waikato Stadium.

Rennie thought his squad had bounced back after the disappointment of their last game loss to the Crusaders. "They're pretty highly motivated, we've made a few changes and there's been a fair bit of edge at training."

CHIEFS

Andrew Horrell
Lelia Masaga
Jackson Willison
Sonny Bill Williams
Robbie Robinson
Aaron Cruden
T Kerr-Barlow
Kane Thompson
Tanerau Latimer
Liam Messam
Brodie Retallick
Craig Clarke (c)
Ben Tameifuna
Hika Elliot
Toby Smith

Chiefs: Mahonri Schwalger, Sona Taumalolo, Mike Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Brendon Leonard, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Tim Nanai-Williams.

HURRICANES

Andre Taylor,
C Jane/A Leiua
Conrad Smith (c)
Tim Bateman
Julian Savea
Beauden Barrett
C Eaton/F Wilson
Victor Vito
Jack Lam
Faifili Levave
Jason Eaton
Jeremy Thrush
Ben May
Dane Coles
Reg Goodes

Hurricanes: Motu Matu'u, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Brad Shields, Frae Wilson / Jamie Nutbrown, Tusi Pisi, Jayden Hayward.

- NZ Herald

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