Super Rugby: Season too punishing on players - Chiefs coach

By Kris Shannon

Tawera Kerr-Barlow returns after recovering from a foot injury. Photo / Getty Images
Tawera Kerr-Barlow returns after recovering from a foot injury. Photo / Getty Images

The revolving doors on the Chiefs' medical room continue to turn and one of the defending champions' coaches thinks something's got to give.

A week after handing five players their Super Rugby debuts, the Chiefs have made six changes for the visit of the Highlanders on Saturday.

Some of those changes represent a positive, with players returning to duty after sitting out week one, while others are the result of further casualties sustained during the impressive victory over the Crusaders.

Mils Muliaina has shrugged of the elbow injury that forced him from the field against the Crusaders, while Liam Messam moves to No 8 to cover for an absent Kane Thompson.

Fellow All Blacks Brodie Retallick and Ben Afeaki will both sit out after their sickening head clash in the 18-10 win, but Tanerau Latimer and Mahonri Schwalger are set to start.

The Chiefs' fluctuating injury list is exemplified at halfback, where Augustine Pulu has been ruled out with a serious knee injury and replaced by Tawera Kerr-Barlow, himself recovered from a foot problem.

The likes of Sam Cane, Robbie Robinson and Ross Filipo are still on the sidelines but the Chiefs are far from the only side dealing with such a crisis. And forwards coach Tom Coventry believes changes must be made to ensure the welfare of players and prevent such injury lists.

"Something's going to have to give," Coventry said. "The amount of football that our players are having to play is excessive. It affects the boys that aren't quite All Blacks - they're asked by their provincial unions to give as much as the All Blacks to their campaigns. There's not a lost of rest - a couple of months off is only minimum [needed]."

Coventry was hopeful the international programme would be brought forward to increase that rest period.

He also thought an answer could come in the proposed alterations to the existing Super Rugby format, providing they were made with the players' best interests in mind.

"We have to make sure that we've still got our best players on the front stage and playing in the Southern Hemisphere."

- NZ Herald

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