Rugby: Cane the latest casualty for Chiefs

Chiefs flanker Sam Cane has been ruled out of Friday's match against the Hurricanes with a slight back strain. Photo / Getty Images.
Chiefs flanker Sam Cane has been ruled out of Friday's match against the Hurricanes with a slight back strain. Photo / Getty Images.

Another day, another injury announcement from the Chiefs, but coach Dave Rennie says Sam Cane's back strain is only minor and the openside flanker is definitely in the frame for next week's heavyweight clash against the Crusaders.

Cane has a disc bulge and was 50-50 for Friday night's match against the Hurricanes at the Cake Tin, the Chiefs deciding to take a cautious approach as they stand on the brink of five matches against New Zealand opposition in the run-in to the play-offs.

In Tanerau Latimer, Rennie has an excellent replacement and Nick Crosswell is making a timely return from an elbow injury to the reserves bench.

"We're pretty fortunate, we believe we've got the two best No7s in the country so we're sure Lats will do a good job for us,'' Rennie said.

The assurances that Cane will be available for the Crusaders match in Hamilton suggest he will be fit to play for the All Blacks against France next month.

The 21-year-old is the only specialist openside flanker in Steve Hansen's 38-man wider training squad, though Luke Braid or Matt Todd would be only a phone call away.

While the Crusaders are clearly already in Rennie's plans, wisely probably given they tipped over the Chiefs in Hamilton last season, the Hurricanes are at the forefront of his mind.

In the two other changes to the starting line-up, Pauliasi Manu starts at loosehead prop and Charlie Ngatai returns from a hamstring strain to centre, replacing Save Tokula.

"It's a great opportunity for Charlie to make a bit of a statement,'' Rennie said of Ngatai who is up against his former team, before noting the challenge his side faced against their New Zealand rivals over the coming weeks.

"They're brutal these games, with test match intensity, and you've got guys coming up against each other who have aspirations to play higher. It's certainly going to be a tough game and a tough few weeks but it's no different to last year when we played the Bulls and then we had four New Zealand sides to finish off.''

He said of the Hurricanes, who looked extremely good in thrashing the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein: "Their backs were against the wall. They've got a lot of character and a lot of very good players. We know full well if we kick poorly and you turn ball over you're going to be punished. They've got a good back three and they've got loosies who are great on the ball.

"A lot of people talk about the fact they have to travel home but I know from our point of view we've won both times we've come back from South Africa in the last two years. I think statistically the side coming home wins more often than not so we're not buying into any of that talk.''

Rennie said he was making progress on a midfield replacement for Richard Kahui after their request to sign Casey Laulala from Munster was denied by the New Zealand Rugby Union. Rennie said the player he was looking at was in the frame to make the sevens World Cup which could have implications for later in the season, but hoped to make an announcement soon.

Hawkes Bay player Dan Waenga has been named on the bench as cover for first-five following Gareth Anscombe's broken foot.

Chiefs' team to play the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday, kick-off 7.35pm is: Robbie Robinson, Lelia Masaga, Charlie Ngatai, Bundee Aki, Aseaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Matt Vant Leven, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Afeaki, Hika Elliot, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Ben Tameifuna, Michael Fitzgerald, Nick Crosswell, Augustine Pulu, Dan Waenga, Save Tokula.

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Reynold Lee-Lo, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito (c), Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks. Reserves: Reggie Goodes, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Brad Shields, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi, James Marshall.


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