Physicality across the paddock from numbers 1-15 and smartness on attack are seen as vital if the Chiefs are to get a win out of their two-game South African Super Rugby sojourn.
While all but one of the Chiefs’ five personnel changes and two positional changes to their starting XV for tomorrow morning’s (6.15am NZ time) match against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth are in the forward pack, head coach Dave Rennie said it was not just a case of the front eight ramping up the physicality.
The Chiefs were shaded in the lineouts and at the breakdowns by the big Stormers front unit in their 36-34 loss in Cape Town last Sunday (NZ time).
But Rennie believes the key was how the team chose to attack against big, physical defenders like the Stormers and Kings, as well as their inability to stop the opposition ball runners in their tracks.
“When we went on our own [with the ball] or went in close, we got monstered [against the Stormers] because they got big numbers there and the Kings are pretty similar.”
When his backs had attacked a little wider with support as well as kicking in behind, they had made big gains and were having no trouble scoring tries.
“[The Stormers] also got into us when they carried and got momentum, got a lot of go-forward, and while we made a lot of tackles we didn’t get too many dominant tackles and gave up a lot of easy yardage.
“We also lost a bit of lineout pill and so were defending a bit more, so all those things have been discussed and we’ve got to up the ante from 1 through to 15 – it’s not just the forwards,” Rennie said.
However, the forward pack changes for tomorrow are substantial and include co-captain Liam Messam playing his 100th game for the franchise at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium rather than waiting to do it in front of family, friends and fans in Hamilton next Friday night.
Rennie said Messam had been keen to play right from the outset, placing all emphasis on what was best for the team.
“Obviously losing last week changed the picture a wee bit.”
Messam moves back to blindside flanker from No 8, Tanerau Latimer shifts across for his first start of the season in the No 7 jersey, with All Black Sam Cane going to the bench and former All Black Ross Filipo bringing both size and experience to the No 8 position.
In the other changes from Newlands, Toby Smith gets his first action of the season at loosehead prop, replacing Pauliasi Manu who moves to the bench, while Hika Elliot replaces injured hooker Mahonri Schwalger.
“We’re pretty keen to share the load; Toby’s been training well; Pauliasi got the first three cracks and now there’s a chance for Toby to stake a claim,” Rennie said.
Mike Fitzgerald comes back into the team for his second start of the season, replacing Brodie Retallick, whom Rennie described as “a little bit beaten up”, while in the only change to the backline Andrew Horrell gets his first start of the season after injury at second five-eighth in place of Charlie Ngatai.
Filipo’s inclusion after recovering from an infected elbow is significant and Rennie admitted the former Crusader, who has returned to New Zealand after stints in France and England, added much-needed size (1.98 metres, 114kg) and an extra option to the lineout as well as physicality around the field.
“It’s probably one position that is still wide open after Fritz Lee had a couple of goes and Liam there last week, [Nick Crosswell] can play there also, so there’s good competition for places.”
AT A GLANCE
Kings: SP Marais, Marcello Sampson, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss, Sergeal Petersen, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, Steve Sykes, Darron Nell (captain), Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Reserves: Edgar Marutlulle, Jaco Engels, David Bulbring, Daniel Adongo, Nicolas Vergallo, George Whithead, Hadleigh Parkes.
Chiefs: Gareth Anscombe, Lelia Masaga, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ross Filipo, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Michael Fitzgerald, Craig Clarke (captain), Ben Afeaki, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith. Reserves: Rhys Marshall, Pauliasi Manu, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Augustine Pulu, Charlie Ngatai, Patrick Osborne.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa).
Kickoff: 6.10am tomorrow (NZ time) at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth.
– © Fairfax NZ News