New Zealand rugby
Chiefs coach looks to soften Kahui blow
February 16, 2013
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie (right) is covering all bases to give his side every chance of defending their title. © Getty Images
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has taken the next step towards preparing for life without Richard Kahui.
The centre revealed on Wednesday that his financial security was at the heart of his decision to sign a two-year deal in Japan, which begins after this year's Super Rugby title defence.
Sidelined until at least round two, Kahui will watch fullback Tim Nanai-Williams don his No 13 jersey for Saturday's final pre-season trial against the Hurricanes in Mangatainoka.
Having spent time on the wing and first-five for Counties in the ITM Cup Nanai-Williams is indeed versatile, but standing at 5-foot-11 and weighing 90kg's is ill-suited to the heavy collisions of the midfield.
Specialists Charlie Ngatai and Andrew Horrell both put their hand up in two previous trials and should be the front runners to fill the void next year.
However, looking to explore his options Rennie made the call, which he insists is a serious one, and explained Nanai-Williams 'very well could start' in the unfamiliar position either this season or the next.
Another experimental change Rennie made with a straight face was placing axed Blues pivot Gareth Anscombe at fullback.
Having pointed to his defence as the biggest work-on for this season, his time in the custodian role should be telling of his progress.
"We have been really impressed with both [Nanai-Williams and Anscombe]," Rennie said. "With their skill sets they very well could start the season in these positions, so they are getting a crack at it tomorrow."
Rookie second five-eighth Bundee Aki will get a chance to form a combination with the incumbent Aaron Cruden as he eyes his debut at Super Rugby level.
Ex-Blues prop Pauliasi Manu will show whether his rejection by Melbourne Rebels medical staff was warranted when he packs down alongside tighthead Ben Afeaki.
Continuing their perfect pre-season record (two wins from two games) will ensure the Chiefs have momentum heading into next week's season opener against a highly anticipated Highlanders outfit at Waikato Stadium.
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