Silently ruing a missed opportunity at the weekend, the Chiefs will welcome back some familiar names to the squad ahead of their clash against the Reds in Round 11 of Super Rugby.
With one week to go until the bye; Chiefs coach Dave Rennie confirmed that Charlie Ngatai is in contention to play in the next game.
It’s been a year since Ngatai was ruled out of all rugby with a serious concussion, but after a return to club rugby in recent weeks, Ngatai is back in the clear. If it happens this weekend, it will be a fairytale return of sorts for Ngatai, taking place in front of his home fans at Taranaki’s rugby headquarters where he has spent so much of his career.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow has to get himself through a final round of tests, mainly in the area of contact, but the expectation is that he will feature against the Reds in New Plymouth.
Also back in the mix is Brodie Retallick, fresh off a rest last week, and midfielder Johnny Fa’auli returns from his four week suspension. Hooker Nathan Harris is also an outside chance to be in the selection conversation – for the first time in a long time.
While reasonably comfortable currently with eight wins and just a single loss; the performance of the Chiefs backline has been a concern in recent weeks. Rennie pointed to a lack of structure and an offload that has failed to fire, meanwhile congratulating the defense on solid outings.
“We want to improve on our structure and we need to make better decisions with ball in hand. Some work on building that pressure will go nicely with our defense that is holding up quite well”
Chiefs Aim To Play Better Rugby
The wins that the Chiefs have had over South African and Australian sides have been poor compared to those against fellow New Zealand conference rivals. A lack of clinical execution has been the biggest issue, but the Chiefs will look to change up their approach, again, when they play their next game.
Poor execution marred the win against the Sunwolves in Round 10 of Super Rugby; the Chiefs failed to score a bonus point and only won by seven points (final score 27-20). Speaking to the media in Hamilton today; Rennie said that the fixes his side needed were easy, but chasing bonus points isn’t the teams main priority.
“We don’t talk about bonus points ahead of any game we go into. We’ve missed out on a few in recent weeks but we don’t want to risk losing games chasing that”
Discipline is quickly becoming a major problem area for the Chiefs and a total of 98 penalties have gone against the side over the course of the season.
Rennie was disappointed at how poor the lineout game was last week, because it goes against the trend of what’s typically been a successful facet of the Chiefs game. Lineouts this season have a 88% success rate, but the scrummaging is even more impressive, running at a success rate of 96% so far.
Ironically, both these areas of the game failed against the Sunwolves and the backline barely got any opportunity to flex its muscles.
“We were reasonably happy at halftime and were in a position to put the foot on the throat. There is a bit of frustration, we wanted a better last twenty”
Underwhelming Reds Head To New Plymouth Hungry To Find Win
The Chiefs get a shot at redemption in a crucial match up against the Reds in New Plymouth at the weekend.
The visitors are somewhat of an interesting prospect – a team that looks great on paper but struggles to perform – even in winning situations. Still, they have the likes of Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi, plus Karmichael Hunt in their side, so it will provide the Chiefs with another big challenge.
The Chiefs currently sit second – amazingly – on the New Zealand conference of Super Rugby.
“Main photo credit”