Super 14 - Semi-Finals
Wounded Chiefs ready for Hurricanes
May 20, 2009
Chiefs skipper Mils Muliaina will be hoping for a first Super 14 final appearance © Getty Images
The Chiefs head in to Saturday's Super 14 semi-final as New Zealand's form side, but have been dealt several injury blows as they prepare to take on a free-flowing Hurricanes outfit at Waikato Stadium.
All Black centre Richard Kahui has failed to recover from a calf knock that would have allowed him to face off against his rival for the New Zealand No.13 shirt Conrad Smith, with Ben May and Brendon Leonard also failing to prove their fitness ahead of what is only the Chiefs' second semi-final appearance. Utility back Dwayne Sweeney is given the call to partner Callum Bruce in the centre, while Leonard is replaced by Toby Morland and Sona Taumololo packs down in place of May.
All Black Mils Muliaina leads the Chiefs from fullback, with the electric duo of Sitiveni Sivivatu and Lelia Masaga present and correct on the wings. Their combative back-row of Sione Lauaki, Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam is retained and will face a battle against Victor Vito, Scott Waldrom and All Black Rodney So'oialo.
Cory Jane, after dismissing rumours of a move to Magners League side Scarlets, takes his place at fullback for the Hurricanes alongside David Smith and Tamati Ellison, with the rampaging Ma'a Nonu partnering Conrad Smith in the centre. Willie Ripia and Piri Weepu are the halfbacks.
During the regular season the Chiefs won out over their Wellington rivals thanks to a 16-8 home victory, and their coach Ian Foster believes that their injuries will not hamper the flow of his side as they look to book their first appearance in the final.
"Dwayne's turned into a real fix-it man for us on the wing and midfield," said Foster who declared similar votes of confidence in Morland and Taumololo. "It hasn't disrupted anything to be honest, we've taken three good names out and we've put three good names in. In terms of the flow of the team, Toby's been there three of the last four weeks, Dwayne's a quality midfielder and in the front row the two props (Taumololo and James McGougan) have been playing regularly anyway."
Such a recent meeting between the two sides means that there will be few surprises come Saturday - another factor that pleases a confident Foster, who was pleased with the side's capacity to '"win ugly" against the Hurricanes and Brumbies in recent weeks.
"It was a good preparation game - there was a home semi on it in effect and we managed to get what we wanted. We can take some confidence from that," he said. "It's what we've had to do under pressure and we've been able to do it. They've had a game on a pretty hard, fast surface (in Brisbane against the Reds) last week, they chucked the ball around so our preparation against the Brumbies was probably quite good for this week."
Chiefs: Mils Muliaina (capt); Lelia Masaga, Dwayne Sweeney, Callum Bruce, Sitiveni Sivivatu; Stephen Donald, Toby Morland; Sione Lauaki, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Kevin O'Neill, Craig Clarke, James McGougan, Aled de Malmanche, Sona Taumalolo
Replacements: Hika Elliot, Joe Savage, Toby Lynn, Serge Lilo, David Bason, Mike Delany, Sosene Anesi
Hurricanes: Cory Jane; Tamati Ellison, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, David Smith; Willie Ripia, Piri Weepu; Rodney So'oialo (capt), Scott Waldrom, Victor Vito, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, John Schwalger
Replacements: Ged Robinson, Jacob Ellison, Bryn Evans, Karl Lowe, Alby Mathewson, Jason Kawau, Zac Guildford