Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Captain one of six survivors

Craig Clarke is battling to be fit for Saturday's repeat. Photo / Getty Images
Craig Clarke is battling to be fit for Saturday's repeat. Photo / Getty Images

Six of the Chiefs squad were involved in the 2009 tilt at the Super rugby crown but skipper Craig Clarke is battling to back up for Saturday's repeat shot at the title.

The lock damaged a medial ligament in his knee during the semifinal win against the Crusaders and coach Dave Rennie rated his skipper as less than 50-50 for the final. If the Chiefs had flown out yesterday, Clarke would have been an unlikely inclusion but with the game in Hamilton, Rennie is giving his captain more time to recover.

Clarke, Liam Messam, Tanerau Latimer, Sona Taumalolo, Hika Elliot and Lelia Masaga are survivors from the visit to Pretoria three years ago when they were thumped 61-17 by the Bulls in the final.

This time the Chiefs host the final against the Sharks who will travel to Brisbane and stay there until Friday before they transfer to Hamilton. By the time they return to Durban, the Sharks will have flown 55,000km in a marathon playoffs schedule as they also chase an elusive first title.

Rennie watched the Sharks' 26-19 victory live, one he labelled as a "good result" for his side's preparations.

"It was a pretty brutal South African derby and we are happy to sleep in our own beds tonight and for the rest of the week," he said.

The Chiefs were rapt to be in the final and were confident they would have been in a strong state of mind wherever that was played.

"The biggest advantage, I reckon, other than the obvious which is you get to play in front of your home crowd and sleep in your own bed all week, we were limited to taking 24 players away and so this way the full squad gets to participate in the build-up.

"What we have achieved so far has not come down to 22 players so it is really neat that we will have the full squad involved."

The Sharks appeared to have some injury issues but may also get talented outside back Patrick Lambie back from an ankle injury for the final.

Since the June break for internationals, Rennie felt the Sharks had been the most impressive of the South African teams.

"In the last few weeks they have beaten the Stormers and beaten the Bulls.

"Prior to that they beat the other two teams and the Stormers before the test window so they have gone well and have a lot of game breakers."

- NZ Herald

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