The Chiefs will be without a host of their top players for Saturday night's Super Rugby Pacific match against Moana Pasifika in Auckland, with many of their first-choice squad unavailable.
The side will be without All Blacks Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Anton Lienert-Brown, Angus Ta'avao and Josh Lord for the match, with 17 players unavailable for selection.
While the Chiefs will be without a lot of experience, the situation opens opportunities for other players in the squad to make their mark and continue their winning ways after being the Crusaders.
"We are generating some great internal competition at training which is creating both an edge as well as confidence in the depth across our squad," Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan said.
"We saw that last week against the Crusaders with a number of our younger players getting an opportunity and standing tall under some immense pressure. Whilst we were happy to get the win, we know we can be better, particularly around basic skills which have let us down at times."
Starting at openside in Cane's place, Hamilton Burr will be making his Super Rugby debut, while Tyrone Thompson and Solomone Tukuafu have been named to make their debuts from the bench. Neither Burr nor Tukuafu are part of the Chiefs' contracted squad, but get their opportunities with the Chiefs having so many players unavailable – a familiar story in 2022.
Pita Gus Sowakula, Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa'i are the only forwards to start again this weekend, though Vaa'i will move from lock to loose forward this week.
The Chiefs' clash against Moana Pasifika will be the only match held in New Zealand this weekend – which is a catch-up game from their round two fixture that was postponed.
Initially, this weekend was scheduled to see Moana Pasifika meet the Highlanders, with the Chiefs taking on the Hurricanes and the Crusaders meeting the Highlanders. However, with Covid-19 running rampant through teams, all three scheduled games for the round were postponed.
"We look forward to playing Moana Pasifika for the first time officially," McMillan said. "There is a lot of pride in their team and we know they will be eager to perform for their passionate fanbase. They have a talented squad and that was clear to see in their game against the Crusaders. We are certainly on high alert around the challenge they pose."
While missing so many players, the Chiefs will be buoyed by the return of Brad Weber and Josh Ioane. While Weber returns in the No 9 jersey, Bryn Gatland holds on to the No 10 jumper following his standout performance in the win over the Crusaders last weekend, pushing Ioane to the bench.
Kaleb Trask will make his season debut at fullback after recovering from injury, while Mitchell Brown and Samipeni Finau, who have both been dealing with injuries, will get their opportunity from the bench.
Chiefs v Moana Pasifika
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday March 19, 7:05pm.
Chiefs: Kaleb Trask, Emoni Narawa, Alex Nankivell, Rameka Poihipi, Jonah Lowe, Bryn Gatland, Brad Weber (c), Pita Gus Sowakula, Hamilton Burr, Tupou Vaa'i, Brodie Retallick, Laghlan McWhannell, Sione Mafileo, Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris.
Reserves: Tyrone Thompson, Atu Moli, Solomone Tukuafu, Samipeni Finau, Mitch Brown, Rivez Reihana, Josh Ioane, Quinn Tupaea.