22,000 Ready To Rock At FMG Stadium For Local Derby

Everyone loves a local New Zealand derby, and for the winner of the Chiefs vs Highlanders clash tonight, there is a big statement to make by doing so.

With three close losses so far this season, the Highlanders are yet to convince that they are capable of claiming back-to-back Super Rugby titles despite having arguably the strongest line up on paper to do so.

The return of Waisake Naholo will complete the Highlanders back line, and with the likes of Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Smith, and Patrick Osborne alongside, the backs have the power to steamroll their way through the Chiefs defense, but they can only do this with plenty of ball in hand.

Kicking possession to the Chiefs back three should result in the Chiefs getting good go forward.

The only way the Highlanders can win this game is to throw everything they have at the Chiefs with ball in hand, take risks, and kick the all important penalty goals that will come a plenty. Continue reading 22,000 Ready To Rock At FMG Stadium For Local Derby

Super Rugby win for Canes perfect farewell for Nonu

Winning the Super Rugby title would be the perfect way to close out Ma’a Nonu’s storied Super Rugby career.

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Ma’a Nonu has been a part of some of the most historic moments in New Zealand rugby history, and tonight’s Super Rugby final in Wellington will be no exception. The hype and anticipation in the capital has reached fever pitch, and it will be one of the biggest disappointments in the cities history if the Hurricanes don’t get the job done.

The Highlanders have nothing to lose – the Hurricanes have everything to lose.

Nonu was there the last time the Hurricanes made the final, and they lost to the Crusaders.

Nonu is the worlds elite midfielder, and has always been a handful for any defense because of his size and power, coupled with amazing speed and ability to get his arms free in the tackle.

Nonu spins his way into contact, and his partnership with Conrad Smith has become a dominant force in both the Hurricanes and the All Blacks for seasons past.

Nonu’s stint with the Highlanders and the Blues was a failure.

If champion calibre players in rugby have proved anything throughout history, it is that they don’t fail twice. Nonu didn’t fail a second time for the All Blacks in Rugby World Cups, and the money is on him closing out his final season of Super Rugby as champion with the Hurricanes.

Nonu has beaten 40 defenders in 2015, helped setup 3 tries, and scored another 4 of his own.

There is a lot riding on tonight’s final for many in the Hurricanes side, but none more so than Ma’a Nonu. It would simply be the perfect way to end a storied career in Super Rugby.

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.

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.

TMO not to blame for lifeless Chiefs thrashing

After being thumped by the Highlanders, the Chiefs suddenly look like a side destined to fall short at Super Rugby’s business end.

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Damian McKenzie should have been awarded a try, but once again a controversial TMO decision halted the Chiefs only real attacking opportunity on the try line that the night had to offer.

There is no denying that questions surrounding the performance against the Highlanders have to be asked.

Saturday night was the worst peformance of the season – bar none.

Ball handling was terrible, lack of structure with attacking ball, and a controversial TMO decision was the story of the night for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs didn’t score a try – the only points came from the boot of Damian McKenzie.

The Highlanders however played with relative ease.

The men from the south ran in tries at will, earning a convincing bonus point victory and moving ahead of the Chiefs in the Super Rugby table.

The Chiefs as a side looked completely unbalanced.

The swapping of positions between the McKenzie brothers will be speculated, especially given that Damian McKenzie seemed to have locked in the starting first-five role only to be moved again heading into the most important game of the season.

Augustine Pulu didn’t repeat his heroics from Rotorua, and impactful players like Anton Lienert-Brown, Bryce Heem, and Hosea Gear were taken completely out of the game by a Highlanders side who were superior from kickoff.

Looking at the match, it is hard to say that the likes of Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, or even Sonny Bill Williams would have had anymore of an impact on the result either.

The Chiefs have been hit hard by injuries, but the depth of the reserves has proved itself. There is the talent to win this competition still – but it is fleeting quickly.

The Chiefs are still going to be there or thereabouts come playoffs time, but there is a lot of uncertainty over the side that many called favorites prior to the season beginning back in February.

The Chiefs next game is against the Reds in Brisbane.