Rugby: Former Cantabrian Tom Sanders to debut for Chiefs against old side

Former Cantabrian Tom Sanders makes his debut for the Chiefs against his former side tonight. Photo/Getty.
Former Cantabrian Tom Sanders makes his debut for the Chiefs against his former side tonight. Photo/Getty.

Former Cantabrian Tom Sanders debuts for the Chiefs tonight. Heading home in enemy colours and clashing with the All Blacks captain must be about as memorable as a debut comes.

That's the scenario facing Tom Sanders tonight, when the Canterbury loosie will take his place at the back of the Chiefs scrum for the first time, playing in front and friends and family at AMI Stadium and, inevitably, butting heads Crusaders counterpart Kieran Read.

It's may sound like a lot for a 22-year-old to handle but, if Sanders needs any help to stay settled, theNo8 need only look on his inside and outside. Packing down on his openside will be Sam Cane, while waiting for clean ball will be Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden.

"It's awesome," Sanders told Radio Sport. "It takes some pressure off you and all you have to do is worry about getting some top quality ball.

"They'll be happy with that and it just gives you a calming influence out on the field.

You know they're going to do their job, so it's one less thing you have to worry about."

That mix between internationals and rookies is a snapshot of the 2016 Chiefs.

While much will be expected from the likes of Cruden, it will be the adjustment of players like Sanders that will determine the two-time champions' chances of launching another challenge for the Super Rugby title.

Dave Rennie does have history of receiving immediate dividends when injecting younger players. The last time the coach dealt with such a high player turnover was in 2012, when the Chiefs eventually claimed their maiden crown.

Rennie scouted Sanders during last year's ITM Cup.

"He's earned the opportunity," Rennie said. "He's a really good man and desperate to do well. He's a quality player -- big and fast, so suits what we want from a No8."

Sanders said Read was "an awesome athlete and one of the best in the world, but I try not to focus on that.

"I just try to focus on what I can do and how I can make some impact on the game myself."

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