Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson has confirmed Charlie Ngatai's move to fullback is a permanent one for the side's Super Rugby campaign this season.

The 27-year-old has spent most of his professional career in the midfield, but will revert to where he played his high school rugby to guide the side's young outside backs.

Ngatai was named alongside Shaun Stevenson and Solomon Alaimalo for their season opener against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night, with Tim Nanai-Williams out due to injury.

"It's something we've been discussing all preseason and with Tim being unavailable this week…we thought it was really critical having his voice at the back. He's looked really sharp," Matson said.


"We decided it was something we were going to commit to, and we have. He looked really good in the Brumbies (preseason) game and there's one way to test your systems and that's to put them under the pressure of the Crusaders' kicking game.

"With that young outside back group, he's going to be really critical with his voice."

Nanai-Williams will miss some time due to a shoulder injury. However, the extent of the injury was not yet clear, and Matson was unable to say just how long the veteran wing was likely to be sidelined for.

The 28-year-old was expected to be evaluated later this week to determine the best plan for rehabilitation going forward.

"Shoulders are often complex things so we're still weighing up what's the best way forward.

Kane Hames will also miss the clash with the Crusaders due to illness, with Aidan Ross getting the start at loosehead prop ahead of Atu Moli.

Moli will likely see time from the bench though, alongside Liam Messam, who was named in the reserves in favour of Mitchell Brown.

"Mitch has been outstanding. We've got two loose forwards on the bench so Mitch's ability to go into lock later in the game if we need that is kind of a key factor as well.

"One of the things we're really conscious of if finishing strong, you've got to finish strong against the Crusaders so making sure you're bringing on some heavy cavalry is a really important part. With Atu Moli and Liam Messam, that definitely helps in that category."

Chiefs: Charlie Ngatai (cc), Shaun Stevenson, Anton Lienert-Brown, Johnny Faauli, Solomon Alaimalo, Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber, Taleni Seu, Sam Cane (cc), Mitchell Brown, Dominic Bird, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Liam Polwart, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Liam Messam, Lachlan Boshier, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Marty McKenzie, Sean Wainui.

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