Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Elliot on drip days before semi

Hika Elliot. Photo / Getty Images
Hika Elliot. Photo / Getty Images

If anyone personified the Chiefs' appetite for their epic semifinal clash against the Crusaders it was hooker Hika Elliot, a player so badly affected by food poisoning during the week he was put on an intravenous drip.

Elliot became badly ill on Wednes-day and was unable to train on Thurs-day, which two days out from a match is the most important working day of a player's week. Instead, he was put on a drip, lost 2.5kg, and then had the misfortune after the Chiefs' 20-19 heart-stopping victory at Waikato Stadium on Saturday to be selected for a drugs test, for which he had to provide a urine sample.

There is no doubt he will look to this Saturday night's grand final clash against the Brumbies at the same venue with a great deal more relish.

"It was pretty bad, he was vomiting and so on," Chiefs coach Dave Rennie confirmed yesterday. "He was put on an IV but we did that here at our [Ruakura] base ... he trained on Friday at the captain's run but still wasn't 100 per cent.

"He did a great job for us. We stuffed up a few lineouts early on but the boys had tweaked the lineouts during the week and, of course, Hika wasn't able to train. That had a little bit of an effect. But certainly he was very physical around the field and had a high workrate. He gutsed it out. He's been good for us, Hika. He's made some real shifts in his game. He'll be better for us next week, obviously."

Elliot's importance was heightened by the unavailability of Mahonri Schwalger, ruled out by a knee injury.

Rennie, who was yesterday running the rule over the Brumbies after their upset 26-23 win over the Bulls in Pretoria, said tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna would have covered hooker if Elliot had not played.

The language of Rennie and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder after the match suggested they expected the Bulls to win at Loftus Versfeld. Instead it is the men from Canberra who stand between the Chiefs and a consecutive title.

Like the Sharks, the Chiefs' final rivals last year, the Brumbies face a tough travel schedule from the republic, but that shouldn't detract from the achievements of Rennie's men.

They were written off by many after the heavy loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch three weeks ago, but showed the necessary steel and inspiration - led by their defence and pack - to stand on the brink of a deserved second title.

Rennie said he was impressed by the Brumbies' performance at Loftus. But Jake White's men are unlikely to offer too many surprises.

"They play a certain style ... They don't play much footy down their own end, they go for the aerial assault, play territory and they strangle you through their set piece.

"They'll be well organised and will certainly come here with the belief that they can beat us. It should make for a hell of a fixture."

- APNZ

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