Donald named in Chiefs 2016 roster

It is the highest turnover in four years with 14 new faces, but the Chiefs will once again field a championship-capable side in 2016 that includes the notable return of one RWC hero.

Stephen Donald returns after four years away to provide the Chiefs with another goal kicking option. Famous for his World Cup winning kick in 2011 for the All Blacks, Donald provides a large amount of experience that will tutor the younger players in the backline well.

After suffering a season-ending injury, Aaron Cruden will be match fit by February, giving the Chiefs the option to field two first fives with proven match winning experience at the highest level of rugby.

Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam will not be a part of Super Rugby in 2016 due to their international sevens commitments.

Big scalps from other sides in the competition include the Crusaders due of lock Dominic Bird and prop Nepo Laulala, plus the injection of former Warriors NRL star Glen Fisiiahi in the backs will keep a lot of media and fans alike interested.

The Chiefs will spend more time away from home in 2016 and will be the first side to travel to Beunos Aires where they will tackle the new Argentine Super Rugby side that includes the exciting Nicolas Sanchez.

Coach Dave Rennie is currently offshore but says the Chiefs squad for 2016 is high on character with a competitive edge.

The full Chiefs squad for 2016:

Michael Allardice – Lock (Hawke’s Bay)
Johan Bardoul – Loose forward (Bay of Plenty)
Dominic Bird – Lock (Canterbury)**
Sam Cane – Loose forward (Bay of Plenty)
Stephen Donald – First five-eighth (Waikato)
Aaron Cruden – First five-eighth (Manawatu)
Hika Elliot – Hooker (Taranaki)
Glen Fisiiahi – Utility Back (Counties Manukau)*
Siegfried Fisiihoi – Prop (Bay of Plenty)*
Mitchell Graham – Prop (Taranaki)
Nathan Harris – Hooker (Bay of Plenty)
Andrew Horrell – Midfield back (Hawke’s Bay)
Mitchell Karpik – Loose forward (Auckland-Bay of Plenty)*
Tawera Kerr-Barlow – Halfback (Waikato)
Tevita Koloamatangi – Loose forward (Tasman)
Nepo Laulala – Prop (Canterbury)**
Michael Leitch – Loose forward (Japan)
Anton Lienert-Brown – Midfield back (Waikato)
James Lowe – Winger (Tasman)
Pauliasi Manu – Prop (Counties Manukau)
Rhys Marshall – Hooker (Taranaki)
Damian McKenzie – First five-eighth/Fullback (Waikato)
Sam McNicol – Outside back (Wellington)**
Atu Moli – Prop (Waikato)*
Charlie Ngatai – Midfield back (Taranaki)
Augustine Pulu – Halfback (Counties Manukau)
Toni Pulu – Winger (Counties Manukau)
Brodie Retallick – Lock (Bay of Plenty-Hawke’s Bay)
Tom Sanders – Loose forward (Canterbury) *
Teleni Seu – Loose forward (Auckland)*
Shaun Stevenson – Outside back (Waikato)*
Seta Tamanivalu – Midfield back (Taranaki)
Chase Tiatia – Outside back (Bay of Plenty)*
Siate Tokolahi – Prop (Canterbury)
James Tucker – Lock (Waikato)*
Maama Vaipulu – Loose forward (Counties Manukau)
Latu Vaeno – Winger (Taranaki)*
Sam Vaka – Midfield back (Counties Manukau)*
Brad Weber – Halfback (Waikato-Hawke’s Bay)
Sonny Bill Williams – Midfield (Counties Manukau)
Austin Manning – Supersub (Bay of Plenty) ***

*Super Rugby debut

** Gallagher Chiefs debut
***Special team member

Gareth Anscombe selected for Welsh clash against Australia

Former Chiefs and Blues back Gareth Anscombe will start for the Welsh in their crunch clash against Australia this weekend.

Credit: Other Sports News

Anscombe was initially ruled out of the Welsh squad for the RWC due to a slight ankle injury. Due to the number of casualties Warren Gatland’s side has suffered throughout the tournament, Anscombe reappeared in training camps last week and has now been named in the run on side, slotting into fullback.

Anscombe played for both the Blues and Chiefs in Super Rugby prior to leaving New Zealand at the end of last season to focus on representing Wales at the World Cup.

Remarkably, Anscombe now gets his time to shine.

The winner of the match will proceed to the quarter finals as the top seed from Pool A.

Chiefs set to field bulky front row in 2016

The Chiefs continue their big signings during Super Rugby offseason, snapping up New Zealand U-20’s captain Atu Moli for two years.

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Moli will prove to be a bigger signing for the Chiefs than a lot of fans will realize and completes what will be a massive front row in 2016.

With the departure of Ben Tamiefuna to France, Moli joins Nepo Laulala to add massive bulk to the Chiefs front row. Not only does Moli bring considerable size, his credentials are already worthy of a player who can make an impact in Super Rugby.

Moli captained the New Zealand U-20’s to a World Championship this year and has impressed early in ITM Cup with Waikato.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that Moli has a big future ahead of him and has worked well in the clubs development squad.

“His work ethic and desire to develop his game is impressive and we have got to know him quite well over the past couple of seasons,” Rennie said.

Other big signings for the Chiefs in offseason include Dominic Bird, Warriors league star Glen Fisiiahi, and Crusaders prop Nepo Laulala

No Super Rugby for Liam Messam and SBW

Liam Messam and Sonny Bill Williams have been named in the 2015/16 All Black Sevens squad – and will not play in Super Rugby next year.

SBW and Liam Messam. Credit: Zimbio

From a Sevens standpoint, the inclusion of Sonny Bill Williams in particular seems to have been  certainty for a while now, but Messam hadn’t revealed what his plans for next year until today’s announcement.

The two Chiefs superstars will be available for all Sevens World Series events beginning later this year.

New Zealand Rugby confirmed Williams and Messam are ruled out of playing Super Rugby, and as such, would be highly unlikely to represent the All Blacks.

Messam made his career in Sevens for New Zealand and his inclusion will be valuable despite lack of sevens game time in the last few years.

All Black Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens says Sonny Bill Williams will adjust well to the environment, hinting that the midfielder’s sensational ability to offload will be a good weapon during the World Series and beyond.

Messam and Williams are the only two Super Rugby players in the squad who will not play a single game for their franchise next season, others will only miss a handful of games.

Rugby Sevens will feature at the Olympic Games for the first time next year in Rio.

Marty McKenzie confirmed for Crusaders

Marty McKenzie’s shift down to the Crusaders will do nothing but good for what promises to be a bright career.

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Talk that the first-five was pondering over an offer from the Crusaders began in the latter part of the Super Rugby competition, and tonight the move was officially confirmed by the Crusaders.

McKenzie is set to get more game time at no.10 with his new club.

McKenzie got a handful of minutes on the field with the Chiefs this year but struggled to lockdown either the 10 or 15 jersey permanently.

McKenzie will have big shoes to fill however, as three main goal-kicking options in the Crusaders are heading offshore at the end of the year, including the legendary Daniel Carter.

The Crusaders haven’t confirmed that McKenzie will be a regular first-five starter, but he is able to play at fullback as well.

Todd Blackadder has a lot of potential options with his new signing.

McKenzie’s younger brother Damian is locked in with the Chiefs for the next two seasons and is being looked at as the long-term option as kicker.

Both McKenzie brothers will start for the NZ Maori this weekend against Fiji.

Naholo brilliance helps end Chiefs season

The 2015 Super Rugby is over for the Chiefs after losing to the Highlanders 24-14 in Dunedin tonight.

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The Highlanders were as elusive as ever with ball in hand, scoring two tries both by the brilliant skill of Waisake Naholo who is now surely one of the leading candidates to be announced in the All Blacks squad tomorrow.

Aaron Smith proved that he is undoubtedly the best halfback in the world tonight.

Smith played a key part in both tries, using his speed and vision to fool the Chiefs defenders who couldn’t put a hand on him all night.

Handling errors haunted the Chiefs, dropping the ball at key moments coupled with crucial misses on goal by Andrew Horrell who coughed up a potential six points in the first half.

Brodie Retallick refused to let his side die, powering over the line late in the game, but the final few build-up plays failed, two ending in handling errors, and one when Seta Tamanivalu was penalised in the ruck, effectively ending the Chiefs chances of levelling the scores with a minute to play.

When the Highlanders were awarded a penalty on the full-time hooter, Lima Sopoaga slotted the kick to send the Highlanders to their first semi final in 19 years.

Waisake Naholo is certainly New Zealand’s next All Black, he shut down the Chiefs defense each time he had the ball, and he performed in the big playoff game with the season on the line, something the All Black selectors would have noticed.

Naholo is now the top try scorer for Highlanders in a single season.

The Highlanders will play either the Hurricanes or the Waratahs next week as the playoffs continue.

Unsettled backline must perform for Chiefs in playoff

The Chiefs head into Forsyth Barr with a backline that has been compromised due to injury.

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It isn’t a big surprise that Andrew Horrell was selected to start for the Chiefs playoff game against the Highlanders, for his experience more than anything.

Horrell has put up average performances this season so far, and his kicking game must improve as it will be crucial in a playoff match.

So far in 2015, Horrell is kicking at a penalty success rate of 42%.

Damian McKenzie slots into fullback once again – a decision that had many Chiefs fans scratching their heads.

Tim Nanai Williams will start at centre alongside cousin Sonny Bill Williams, the first time the two have been paired together in 2015, and no doubt much work on communication was had during the week.

Sonny Bill must find form against the Highlanders tonight – he has looked a shadow of his former self so far in 2015.

In many ways, the Chiefs backline is the most unbalanced it has been all year, but injuries have seen the likes of Tom Marshall and Charlie Ngatai sidelined.

Seta Tamanivalu hasn’t been seen in the Chiefs side for weeks but returns tonight and covers the bench. It is likely that Anton Lienert-Brown would have been in the mix but is unavailable due to his NZ U-20 commitments in Italy.

Michael Leitch also starts off the bench tonight and Liamessam will slot into the No. 8 role.

Centurion understands personal significance of do-or-die clash

Hika Elliot hopes that championship-winning experience can be a draw factor against the Highlanders on Saturday night.

(Photo credit: Rugby365 via Google Images)
Elliot will make his 100th Super Rugby appearance on Saturday night in the Chiefs do-or-die clash to stay alive in Super Rugby, but the experienced hooker is not forgetting the personal significance of the event.

“It’s a pretty special occasion for me, when I first started my career I didn’t think I would be still playing,” Elliot said.

Elliot says putting solid rugby inside Forsyth Barr will be key to beating the Highlanders and advancing deeper into the Super Rugby finals with such a young side of Super Rugby inexperience.

“For us older guys it is our responsibility to make the younger guys feel as comfortable as possible heading into this finals series,” Elliot said.

Augustine Pulu underwent surgery after breaking his arm during the Hurricanes clash, confirming Brad Weber’s start in his native Dunedin.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie confirmed reports that Marty McKenzie is in talks with the Crusaders about playing as a regular starter, but as The Real Michael Pulman understands it, no deal has been signed as yet.

The Chiefs will exit the competition with a loss to the Highlanders.

Chiefs lacking convincing results as playoffs arrive

The Chiefs are still alive in Super Rugby, but the stumble against the Hurricanes last night has point for concern.

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James Lowe looked good on his return to the field after several weeks on the injury list, making several open play kicks as usual and looking likely with ball in hand, but Sonny Bill Williams looked a shadow of his former self.

Williams was eager to offload as per usual, but he didn’t think through his passing very well on occasion, including one handoff to a Hurricanes defender which put his side on the back foot.

The Chiefs had a 13-point lead in the first half, only to cough up 21-points to lose in convincing fashion.

Another yellow card was added to the club’s telly, but that was the least of the problems when referee Chris Pollock also gave the Hurricanes a penalty try after Tom Marshall shoulder barged Julian Savea on the try line.

Despite captain Liam Messam’s appeals, replays clearly showed no arms in Marshall’s tackle.

From there, the Hurricanes turned an underwhelming start into a storming comeback, helped in large by several handling errors from the Chiefs and some questionable decisions to turn down shots at goal with many minutes to play.

Marty McKenzie landed all his attempts on goal but didn’t appear to take the ball to the line all that often, and this wasn’t helped with a floating pass out back which James Marshall intercepted to score the Hurricanes second try and put the hosts behind on the scoreboard.

An underwhelming performance where the Chiefs had placed themselves in a decent position to win, and many will say that the Chiefs have no one to blame but themselves, and looking at the tape it is hard to argue against that.

Augustine Pulu also went into surgery last night according to a post on Instagram, presumably to repair the injured wrist.

The Chiefs will now travel to Dunedin to play the Highlanders in the wildcard playoffs next Saturday.

SBW must find superstar pedigree in Canes clash

With average performances at best in 2015, Sonny Bill Williams will need to be at his brilliant best tonight against the Hurricanes.

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Sonny Bill Williams hasn’t played for several weeks, and with a mediocre season for the Chiefs so far, it seems as if the code-hopping superstar may have more on the line tonight than the actual result for his side.

Williams has one try in 2015, against the Crusaders all the way back in week three.

It was clear that Williams partnered well with Damian McKenzie in week one against the Blues in Albany.

With Aaron Cruden on the shelf for the rest of the year, Williams will go to battle tonight with Marty McKenzie like he did against the Rebels in Hamilton back on Anzac weekend.

Some in the media have speculated that Williams returned to New Zealand in the hopes of being the first choice All Black midfielder.

But the form of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith has all but pushed Williams to the bench come international season, and even that status is being questioned by many.

Williams’ turnover rate is high with ball in hand.

The real depth of Williams’ back strain injury has never been fully known.

Dave Rennie told media this week that Williams could have played last week against the Reds, and tonight’s return against the Hurricanes was always part of the plan.

It is believed that Williams’ return will bolster the Chiefs chances in New Plymouth, but the stats so far suggest this is far from the case.

Williams is not just playing for the Chiefs tonight, he is playing for his credibility in his union return.