Super Rugby
Injury cloud hampers lead up to Crusaders clash
ESPN Staff
February 23, 2015
Desperate Rob Coleman tackle knocks the ball out of Maama Vaipulu of the Chiefs as he dives over the tryline, Chiefs v Brumbies, Super Rugby, New Plymouth, New Zealand, February 20, 2015
A shoulder injury may rule Maama Vaipulu out of the Crusaders clash © Getty Images
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Despite being one of three teams to win both their opening matches, the Chiefs head into their derby clash against conference rivals the Crusaders with a back-row injury crisis having lost three loose forwards through the 19-17 win over the Brumbies on Friday night.

All Blacks openside flanker Sam Cane expects to return after his late withdrawal from Friday's match with a neck injury, but his replacement, Tevita Koloamatangi, remains in doubt having hobbled off with an ankle injury after less than five minutes. The Chiefs will also be pushed in the No.8 position with Maama Vaipulu forced off at half-time with a shoulder injury, while breakout No.8 Liam Squire remains on the sidelines after a concussion suffered in the in the ITM Cup. The extent of Koloamatangi's injury remains unknown, but Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is certain he has no chance of returning for the weekend's clash.

"Sam will definitely be right this week," Dave Rennie told Fairfax Media in New Zealand. "We were hoping Liam would be available this week but there is still a question mark over that. Again we'll know in the next couple of days. He's certainly improved a lot but we don't want to take any risks before he's fully recovered."

The injuries meant an early reintroduction for All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, while captain Liam Messam extended his planned 40 minutes to 80 with lock Mike Fitzgerald moving to blindside flanker for the second half.

"Conditioning-wise that was pretty impressive - to play 80 minutes straight off the bat," Rennie said.

Code-hopping star Sonny Bill Williams was another late withdrawal on Friday, with a calf injury, but he is expected to return against his former team.

Despite the injury crisis looming over his side, Rennie was impressed by his side's tough win and the player depth after they were pushed to the final minute to claim the win.

"It's such a tough competition - that's why we were happy with the win at the weekend," Rennie told Fairfax. "The Brumbies are a really good side and while, yes, we weren't at our best, we managed to win an arm wrestle.

"You've got to win those tight games and the key is if you can just keep winning, everyone's going to beat everyone else. We've just got to focus on us and while we know we need to be better, we're reasonably happy.

"We've blooded 28 players now and are creating a bit of depth within the squad."

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