The Chiefs have made just one change to their starting squad ahead of their clash against the Australian conference-leading Waratahs on Friday night.
Tom Sanders is promoted from the bench to start at No.8 to replace the injured Michael Leitch who dislocated his thumb last week against the Rebels. Leitch underwent surgery today but head coach Dave Rennie says that the kiwi-born Japanese captain could be available come playoffs time.
“If he can come right, he will be in the reckoning if we get there”, Rennie said.
The Chiefs’ other loose-forward option Maama Vaipula wasn’t considered for selection due to a knock sustained during club rugby last weekend.
Standout midfielder Charlie Ngatai won’t make his return to the starting line up due to symptoms remaining to linger from a concussion sustained three weeks ago against the Highlanders. Ngatai wasn’t present at team training this morning, which suggests the Chiefs want to take his return to taking contact with caution.
Rennie says that the midfielder has improved, but also stressed that his side is very cautious around handling concussions.
“He’s just not quick enough yet but I am pretty sure if we had a game the week after this then he’d be playing”, Rennie said.
The Chiefs are happy that, for the most part, they can select their starting squads with consistency, something that wasn’t the case throughout much of the 2015 season due to a large number of injuries.
Looking ahead to the Waratahs, Rennie says that the current leaders of the Australian conference will provide a massive challenge to the Chiefs away from home.
“The Waratahs will ask questions of us defensively and it will be important for us to maintain possession so we can build some pressure against them”, Rennie said.
The Chiefs play the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday night at 9.40pm NZST.