Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Medics give Clarke all-clear to lead side

Craig Clarke. Photo / Getty Images
Craig Clarke. Photo / Getty Images

One hurdle cleared, now the Chiefs are set for the main obstacle at Waikato Stadium.

Captain Craig Clarke was given the all-clear to lead his side into their second crack at a Super rugby crown tomorrow after surviving a workout on his damaged knee.

That decision avoided all sorts of rearrangements in the pack and allowed coach Dave Rennie to announce an unchanged side to host the Hamilton conclusion to the tournament.

"He's good, we tested him, he came through well but we kept him out of the afternoon stuff because we had a pretty physical session but he will run in the captain's run and be ready for the final," Rennie said.

"We believe [he will last], if we thought he was going to be a bit of a burden or would battle then we would not have run the risk, but the medical staff have done a great job with him and he has been really disciplined.

"He will have to work through a bit of pain at various times but we are happy with where he is at."

There was no sentiment in selecting Clarke, who hurt his knee in the semifinal victory against the Crusaders and is one of the survivors from the Chiefs' previous final against the Bulls in 2009.

"It is all about trying to win a championship in the weekend. He is an important part of our mob from a leadership and set piece point of view and we are happy to get him out there, but he needed to get to a certain level of fitness and he has done that."

Clarke did some running, change-of-direction agility work and tackling at training to satisfy himself, the medics and the coaches that he was in shape to lead the Chiefs' title attack.

The Chiefs staff had done a great deal of work analysing the Sharks' styles of play, their key players and general patterns, said Rennie.

They were a potent side across most departments and had a strong scrum and lineout.

"They have a lot of good athletes and are very physical so we will need to be at our best up front and they have game breakers all over the park. They can play high-paced footy or kick the ball and look for territory. We have done a fair bit of work in and around them so we have to make sure we front in key areas and give ourselves a chance of winning it."

Rennie added: "It is fantastic to still be in the race for the title, and to be at home so we know we will have a big crowd behind us and we're confident the boys will front."

CHIEFS V SHARKS

Waikato Stadium 7.35pm tomorrow

Chiefs

15: Robbie Robinson

14: Tim Nanai-Williams

13: Andrew Horrell

12: Sonny Bill Williams

11: Asaeli Tikoirotuma

10: Aaron Cruden

9: Tawera Kerr-Barlow

8: Kane Thompson

7: Tanerau Latimer

6: Liam Messam

5: Brodie Retallick

4: Craig Clarke (c)

3: Ben Tameifuna

2: Mahonri Schwalger

1: Sona Taumalolo

Reserves: Hika Elliot, Ben Afeaki, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Brendon Leonard, Jackson Willison, Lelia Masaga.

- NZ Herald

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