Chiefs ready for Africa

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - By EVAN PEG­DEN

The Chiefs will be stick­ing with their suc­cess­ful but makeshift back­line for the next three matches at least as they look to build on their open­ing- game success in Su­per Rugby.

But they have hopes of get­ting at least one, if not both, their ex­pe­ri­enced hook­ers back sooner af­ter a sen­sa­tional de­but by 20-year-old rookie Rhys Mar­shall in the 41-27 vic­tory over the High­landers in Dunedin on Fri­day night.

The Chiefs pack their bags and head to South Africa on Sun­day af­ter­noon for a twom­atch tour af­ter this Satur­day’s first home game against the Chee­tahs at Waikato Sta­dium.

It ap­pears that won’t be enough time for the in­jured back­line quar­tet who missed the opener – Richard Kahui, Rob­bie Robin­son, An­drew Hor­rell and Bren­don Leonard – to get them­selves right in time to travel.

‘‘It’s likely they will all be out and won’t be back prior to us get­ting back from South Africa,’’ Chiefs head coach Dave Ren­nie said yes­ter­day.

The top two hook­ers in the squad, Ma­honri Sch­wal­ger and Hika El­liot, missed Fri­day’s match with Sch­wal­ger need­ing more time to re­turn from off-sea­son knee surgery and El­liot strain­ing a calf mus­cle at last Wed­nes­day’s main pre-match train­ing run.

Sch­wal­ger should be in con­tention to play this week and travel to South Africa, af­ter he was a late switch out of the team on Fri­day morn­ing, hav­ing been named to re­place El­liot in the start­ing lineup.

El­liot’s in­jury is not as bad as first thought, now de­scribed as a one to three- week in­jury, giv­ing him an out­side chance of tour­ing, de­pend­ing on his progress this week.

Ren­nie ad­mit­ted the de­ci­sion to start Mar­shall, who has yet to play se­nior pro­vin­cial rugby – although signed by Taranaki af­ter play­ing un­der-20 rugby for Hawke’s Bay while on a twoyear farm­ing course – was more a case of tak­ing the pres­sure off Mar­shall by not nam­ing him in the XV ear­lier as well as one of giv­ing Sch­wal­ger more time to prove his fit­ness.

But there was no sur­prise among the Chiefs coaches about how well Mar­shall played in an 80-minute per­for­mance, hav­ing picked him from rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity, out of the New Zealand un­der- 20 side.

‘‘It was a spe­cial per­for­mance from a young fella who only found out that morn­ing he was go­ing to start.

‘‘He did a good job in the set-piece stuff and around the field he’s got a mas­sive ticker and was in­volved in a lot of tack­les, a lot of cleanout and a lot of car­ry­ing. He had a mighty game and we’re really happy for him,’’ Ren­nie said.

‘‘ Maybe it high­lights the naysay­ers who didn’t un­der­stand why we would pick a young fella who hadn’t played NPC.’’

Once again it showed Ren­nie and the Chiefs are bang on in plac­ing huge em­pha­sis on char­ac­ter in re­cruit­ing play­ers and fol­lows on from the young tyro suc­cesses of last year like Brodie Re­tal­lick and Ben Tamei­funa.

Of the other stand­out play­ers for the Chiefs on Fri­day such as man-of-the­match flanker Sam Cane, fillin cen­tre Tim Nanai-Wil­liams

and im­pres­sive full­back and goal-kicker Gareth An­scombe, it was Nanai-Wil­liams who was the most re­mark­able story.

Nanai-Wil­liams, 23, was fac­ing a huge chal­lenge in switch­ing from wing/full­back to cen­tre in place of the in­jured Kahui and Hor­rell, but af­ter wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night be­fore the game suf­fer­ing from vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhoea and spend­ing the fol­low­ing day in bed, it is a mir­a­cle he was able to front at all, let alone score two tries and play a star­ring role.

‘‘We thought we might get 30 or 40 [out of him] but at half­time he said he was still hang­ing in there and felt OK.

‘‘We were go­ing to take him off just prior to him get­ting beaten by Kade Poki, but he didn’t want to come off. But by the time they scored again he was pretty wasted and came straight off, went in the shower, pulled up a chair and sat un­der the water for about 20 min­utes,’’ Ren­nie said.

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