The Chiefs and Blues have named their teams for the opening round two match. Both teams were dealt narrow losses at homes last week, as well as some unfortunate injuries. However, no other team can boast the injury toll suffered by the Chiefs in a miserable second half against the Highlanders at Waikato Stadium last week.
Experienced former All Black halfback Brendan Leonard is out for ten weeks with a hamstring injury. Game breaking winger Leila Masaga suffered a nasty looking knee injury but fortunately is only out for two to three weeks. Props Ben Afeaki and Toby Smith are also unavailable for considerable lengths of time, seriously straining the Chiefs’ front row depth. Afeaki is out for three months with a broken forearm. Smith’s calf injury will put him out for at least a month.
Monster prop 138kg Ben Tameifuna has been called up from the wider training group. It may be a year earlier than expected for the 20 year old prop, who was part of last year’s victorious Under 20 New Zealand Rugby Team. However, he will have the support of family member Arizona Taumalolo on the loosehead side.
There are five other changes for the Chiefs. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tanerau Latimer, Aseli Tikoirotuma and Samoan internationals Mahonri Schwalger and Kane Thompson. On the bench there are four players waiting to make their debut in Shane Cleaver, Augustine Pulu, Andrew Horrell and Declan O’Donnell. Journeyman Jamie Nutbrown has been called into the squad to cover halfback.
For the Blues prop Tevita Mailau replaces the injured tighthead Charlie Faumuina. He is the only change for the Blues, although they have brought Gareth Anscombe onto the reserves bench next to All Black Piri Weepu. Ma’a Nonu will wait at least another week to make his debut for the Chiefs, and misses out on a juicy match up against the Chiefs pairing of Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui.
Team Lineups for Chiefs v Blues at Waikato Stadium
Robbie Robinson, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Richard Kahui, Sonny Bill Williams, Tim Nanai-Williams, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Kane Thompson, Tanerau Latimer Liam Messam (captain), Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke, Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger, Arizona Taumalolo.
Reserves: Hika Elliot, Shane Cleaver, Fritz Lee, Sam Cane, Augustine Pulu, Andrew Horrell, Declan O’Donnell.
Isaia Toeava, David Raikuna, Rene Ranger, Benson Stanley, Rudi Wulf, Michael Hobbs, Alby Mathewson; Jerome Kaino, Daniel Braid, Chris Lowrey, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Tevita Mailau, Keven Mealamu (captain), Tom McCartney.
Reserves: Pauliasi Manu, Angus Ta’avao, Brad Mika, Luke Braid, Piri Weepu, Gareth Anscombe, Sherwin Stowers