Lienert-Brown in hos­tile ter­ri­tory

Waikato Times Weekend - - RACING - AARON GOILE

An­ton Lienert-Brown will have a few mates in the grand­stands at AMI Sta­dium tonight. Don’t think they’ll be cheer­ing for him, though.

It will be a re­turn home to Christchurch for the Chiefs mid­fielder in the Su­per Rugby semi­fi­nal against the Cru­saders.

The born and bred Cantab went through Christchurch Boys’ High School and it was the savvy re­cruit­ment of Dave Ren­nie and Wayne Smith which lured him north to Waikato and into Su­per Rugby at just 18 years old.

Now 22, Lienert-Brown is all of a sud­den one of the coun­try’s top mid­field­ers, af­ter last year de­but­ing for the All Blacks and now hav­ing 13 tests to his name. But while his mates back in Christchurch wouldn’t shout louder for any­one else while he’s wear­ing the sil­ver fern, it’s a bit of a dif­fer­ent story when it comes to re­turn­ing there as an in­vader.

His fam­ily in red and black ter­ri­tory have eas­ily con­verted to be­ing fans of the Chiefs and High­landers - with brother Daniel fur­ther south - ‘‘but some of my friends, they’ve been more hard to sway’’, said Lienert-Brown, who is ex­pect­ing to hear some ban­ter thrown his way from the stands.

There was cer­tainly the chance to make his mates’ wish and sign with the Cru­saders from next sea­son, with their coach Scott Robert­son sound­ing him out but, in May, Lienert-Brown re-signed with the Chiefs through till 2020, so this week­end’s oc­ca­sion will be all the more spe­cial, with the Chiefs not hav­ing played in Christchurch since round one last year.

‘‘I haven’t seen some of my fam­ily - my sis­ter and her daugh­ter for a while, so it’ll be good to catch up with them, and ob­vi­ously Mum and Dad, and Nana and Grand­dad. So it’s go­ing to be ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion to per­form in front of them,’’ said Lienert-Brown, who was pre­par­ing to reac­quaint him­self with the Christchurch chill of an eight de­gree game-day high and a low of mi­nus four.

‘‘They’re used to it and I’m not, so I’ll be tak­ing my skivvy down and they’ll prob­a­bly still be in their shorts,’’ he chuck­led.

The Chiefs can in­deed turn up the heat and cause a boilover, but it’s go­ing to be a stiff task fol­low­ing their ar­du­ous travel sched­ule. How­ever, Lienert-Brown noted that at this stage of the sea­son all the hard yards had been done and they knew they were fit enough, so it was just about get­ting clar­ity on their tasks and to ‘‘trust the process’’.

‘‘There’s good ex­cite­ment amongst the group,’’ he said. ‘‘Mainly it’s go­ing to be a men­tal thing. I’m sure an op­por­tu­nity to play a semi­fi­nal against the Cru­saders in Christchurch is pretty mo­ti­vat­ing, so I’m sure the boys will for­get about the travel pretty quickly.’’

Lienert-Brown’s bat­tle against Jack Good­hue should be a goody, with the pair hav­ing been team­mates un­der Robert­son in the New Zealand Un­der-20 side which claimed the world ti­tle in 2015 (Lienert-Brown at cen­tre and Good­hue on the right wing), as well as be­ing to­gether in the All Blacks’ camp for the se­ries against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons.

‘‘We get on re­ally well, and he’s a bit of a char­ac­ter,’’ LienertBrown said. ‘‘And he’s been play­ing some qual­ity footy this year.

‘‘So I’m look­ing for­ward to that chal­lenge as well. And I guess it’s al­ways mo­ti­vat­ing when you’re up against some of the best in the com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘I’ve got some good mates in that Cru­saders team and ob­vi­ously con­nec­tions with the coaches, and I’d love noth­ing bet­ter to get one up on them. Ob­vi­ously they’ve got brag­ging rights at the mo­ment [from the 31-24 win in Fiji], and that’s more mo­ti­va­tion.’’

ASH­LEY VLOTMAN/GETTY IM­AGES

An­ton Lienert-Brown re­turns home to Christchurch this week­end and is hop­ing to dis­ap­point the lo­cals.

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