With all the attention on one Chiefs midfielder tomorrow, the other will be hoping his season can also kick into gear.

Charlie Ngatai has understandably hogged the headlines as he returns from a year-long absence to face the Reds in New Plymouth but, of all the benefits he will add to the Chiefs, perhaps his partner has the most to gain.

Anton Lienert-Brown has so far been a solid if unspectacular member of his side's backline, playing in a succession of different midfield combinations while failing to attain the heights of his breakthrough campaign.

Last year saw Lienert-Brown and Ngatai link well for the Chiefs before the latter was struck down by concussion. And, in many ways, Lienert-Brown was a beneficiary of his teammate's misfortune, making the most of a spate of midfield injuries to earn an All Black call-up.


Once on the international stage, Lienert-Brown out-performed expectations and retained his place for the end-of-season tour. But, currently the incumbent, his quiet form has left him a questionable starter for the Lions tour.

In 643 minutes for the Chiefs this season, the 22-year-old has recorded two try assists and 10 offloads, the same numbers he managed in less than half the playing time on All Blacks duty last year.

According to coach Dave Rennie, he has been a victim of the Chiefs' attacking struggles as a unit. And tonight, with what Rennie described as "as good a backline as we can put on the park", would be a good time for Lienert-Brown to rediscover his spark.

"I think, attack-wise, he's battled because our attack has battled," Rennie said. "He's still going pretty well but, like a few others, I know he's keen to get a bit more ball in his hands."

But the limited ball Lienert-Brown has enjoyed tells only part of the story. Of the 24 midfielders in Super Rugby who have made at least 50 carries this season, just two players have a worse average gain than Lienert-Brown's 3.39 metres.

There is another side to his game, however. Of the 21 midfielders have attempted at least 50 tackles, only four have a better success rate than Lienert-Brown's 86 per cent.

"His defensive game's been really strong, and we know he's got a huge defensive workrate and is a very good tackler," Rennie said. "He's part of our defensive group, so he delivers a lot of stuff there."