Rugby: Chiefs need two key ingredients against Blues

By Campbell Burnes

Chiefs prop Pauliasi Manu (C) is shaping as a threat to the Blues in Friday night's Super Rugby blockbuster. Photo / file
Chiefs prop Pauliasi Manu (C) is shaping as a threat to the Blues in Friday night's Super Rugby blockbuster. Photo / file

The recipe for Chiefs' success against the Blues should include two key ingredients: don't take on Pauliasi Manu in the scrums and cut down Rieko Ioane's space.

Nepo Laulala and Atu Moli will be tasked with keeping the former Chief Manu in check as the Blues loosehead looks like he is back to his scrummaging best.

He already touched up the Chiefs scrum in the February 17 hitout and will be seeking more of the same in Hamilton on Friday night.

Chiefs midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown, a strong tackler, will be charged with some of the defensive duties, unless they play the one-out defensive style, of shutting down Ioane, who ran riot in Melbourne in round one.

His hat-trick may consign Blues brothers George Moala and Rene Ranger to wing berths once they are firing on all cylinders.

The Chiefs know they missed too many first-up tackles against the Highlanders, and it was really only their tenacious scrambling, along with some Highlanders' profligacy, that allowed them to emerge with the win from Dunedin.

They know that any weak first-up tackling on Ioane the Younger, or Older, will mean there will be little chance to scramble. He will be gone on the outside.

"This is certainly going to be a step up. They have a very impressive scrum, obviously led through Pauliasi," says Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

"What we know is that if you give them time and space, as the Rebels did, you will get pummelled.

''We'll have to hunt really well to potentially steal and slow down pill. Rieko is outstanding, big and powerful and quick. The key is to deny him possession and shut down his space so he doesn't get those opportunities.

The emphasis will go on our midfielders (and there) Anton is an outstanding tackler and good at reading the play. He's also got a phenomenal work-rate."

Lienert-Brown was in the No 13 jersey against the Highlanders, and he and Chiefs debutant Johnny Fa'auli were able to shut down Malakai Fekitoa's space, the Aucklander yet to show his full attacking arsenal but solid on the tackle.

As for the prospect of marking Rieko Ioane, Lienert-Brown was talking up his opponent.

"You just look at his attributes. He's fast, strong and tall. I wish I had some of those attributes, but he's also a smart young man.

''His power and speed suits him in midfield. When he does have the ball, it's about making those tackles. We just have to steel up and make them. Augustine Pulu is another big threat too," says the 2016 All Blacks midfielder.''

He also had high praise for the work of Fa'auli, another transplanted Aucklander, who hits hard and favours a physical, direct approach.

- NZ Herald

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