Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Genia a tough customer for Pulu

Augustine Pulu will be challenged to contain Will Genia. Photo / Christine Cornege
Augustine Pulu will be challenged to contain Will Genia. Photo / Christine Cornege

Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu's value to his team quickly rose after Tawera Kerr-Barlow's broken jaw and it will reach a new level if he succeeds in defusing the threat presented by Reds counterpart Will Genia.

It will be one of the biggest challenges of his short career. Genia by himself will be tough enough to contain for Pulu and the defending champions at Waikato Stadium tomorrow afternoon, but the Wallabies' partnership with first-five Quade Cooper means the Chiefs' defence will be on high alert.

The Reds, with Genia to the fore, were one of the few teams to beat the Chiefs last season when they triumphed 42-27 in Brisbane, the match in which Richard Kahui suffered the shoulder injury that ended his rugby year. It was their third consecutive victory over the Chiefs and, given their good record this season - five wins and two losses - they will probably be confident of making it four in a row.

"He's one of the stars of the game right now," Pulu said of Genia. "We all know he's one of the greats, he's the best halfback in the world.

"His decision-making, his pass, his kick, he knows when to do it all. He's pretty much got it all."

Pulu, 23, is already a well-liked member of the squad and not only because of his playing ability. He worked for a short while as a barber in Otahuhu and has kept his hand in with free cuts for his teammates.

While staying clear of Pulu's clippers, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the player wasn't the type to get overawed by Genia and Co.

"He's very combative, he'll really enjoy the challenge," said Rennie. "He's got some similar qualities to Genia. He's very quick, he's a real handful himself. Hopefully if we get some good go-forward ball then Augustine can put them under a bit of pressure.

"We've got Brendon Leonard as well - he's a really good No 9, but we wanted to reward Augustine for how well he played against the Blues."

The Chiefs won that match in Mt Maunganui 23-16 to cement themselves at the top of the New Zealand conference ahead of last weekend's bye.

Rennie has shuffled his pack this week, going for Sam Cane, Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam as his loose forwards and starting Ben Tameifuna as tighthead prop. Tim Nanai-Williams returns to the wing after a groin injury.

- APNZ

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