Richard Kahui cleared for Chiefs return
March 22, 2013
Richard Kahui was a key player for the Chiefs during their title-winning campaign © Getty Images
Kahui will return from the bench against the Highlanders at Waikato Stadium on Friday night, after his shoulder injury was cleared, while Leonard returns from a cheek injury when he plays for the Chiefs Development side against Tonga A in Te Kuiti.
The development side then plays Samoa A on Thursday, and Leonard hopes to be pressing for inclusion in the Chiefs' Super Rugby fixture against the Blues in Mount Maunganui on March 30.
IRB Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks star Kahui was initially bracketed with Patrick Osborne as he works his way back from yet another injury setback, which further delayed the start to what is potentially his final season for the Chiefs before he leaves for the Toshiba club in Japan.
Kahui's confirmed inclusion in the match-day 22 is one of several changes coach Dave Rennie made to the side that fended off a brave Southern Kings side in Port Elizabeth last week.
Co-captain Craig Clarke will sit this match out as a precautionary measure after receiving a knock to the head in South Africa, and will be replaced by Michael Fitzgerald. Brodie Retallick packs down next to him in the second row after coming off the bench in the previous game.
Former Highlanders backrower Nick Crosswell will start in the No 8 jersey after scans revealed Ross Filipo will require 8-10 weeks to recover from a medial crucial ligament injury. Pauliasi Manu starts at prop, with Ben Afeaki moving to the bench; he will be partnered by the bruising Ben Tameifuna. Romana Graham is included alongside Kahui on the bench.
"We are expecting a similar battle to our first game against the Highlanders," Rennie said. "It was physical and fast, and this week will be nothing less."
Captain Liam Messam marked his 100th game for the Chiefs against the Kings, but the milestone is to be celebrated officially at a ceremony after Friday's game.
"It will be a special game as we will be honouring Liam Messam for becoming the first person to have played 100 matches for the Chiefs," Rennie said. "To acknowledge his impressive achievement in front of our home crowd will be a great occasion."
Chiefs: Gareth Anscombe; Lelia Masaga, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma; Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Nick Crosswell, Sam Cane, Liam Messam (captain); Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald; Ben Tameifuna, Hikawera Elliott, Pauliasi Manu. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Ben Afeaki, Romana Graham, Tanerau Latimer, Augustine Pulu, Charlie Ngatai, Richard Kahui.
The Chiefs stuttered at times, but eventually prevailed (video available only in Australia)