REST FOR MESSAM: The Chiefs may give Liam Messam a rest in South Africa so he can bring up a milestone in Hamilton.
The Chiefs are poised to rest All Black Liam Messam for one of two Super Rugby matches in South Africa so he can bring up his century of games for the franchise at home in Hamilton.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie confirmed they were seriously considering not playing Messam against the newly promoted Southern Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in two weeks so he would not be overseas when he became the first Chiefs player to achieve the milestone in 18 seasons of Super Rugby.
That would enable him to play his 100th game against the Highlanders at Waikato Stadium on Friday, March 22.
“We’ll make that decision based on what’s best for the team so we’ll get past the Stormers game [this weekend] first and then see,” Rennie said yesterday before the Chiefs flew to Sydney.
The reason they can consider such a move is that they have taken plenty of loose forward cover with them in their 26-man tour party, thanks mainly to the injuries that continue to rule out three key backs.
That has meant that instead of the usual 14/12 forwards/backs split in the group, they have gone with 15/11.
“We didn’t have too many tough choices in the backs because we’ve got Robbie [Robinson], Richard [Kahui] and Brendon [Leonard] having to stay home [because of continuing injuries].
“We probably would have taken a 14/12 split in normal circumstances but we’ve gone 15/11 with only 11 fit backs,” Rennie said.
Nick Crosswell and Ross Filipo have both been included in the tour party, with both able to play at six or eight in place of Messam, although so far not having made it into the match 22 for the first two fixtures.
Unfortunately for 20-year-old hooker Rhys Marshall, who has been a revelation in the first two games as an 80-minute starter against the Highlanders and a 15-minute try-scoring replacement against the Cheetahs at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night, the extra forward complement still did not leave room for his inclusion.
Rennie said Marshall was one of the most unlucky players not to make the cut, but veteran hooker Mahonri Schwalger has been saved for the South African tour and joins Hika Elliot as the two hookers travelling.
Others to make the cut included prop Toby Smith and utility back Andrew Horrell, who has recovered from his ankle injury, while others to miss out were tight forwards Solomona Sakalia and Romana Graham, along with the wider training group players who are now able to be played with the relaxation of previous injury protocols.
The only new injury picked up in Saturday night’s match – a haematoma to the thigh of second five-eighth Bundee Aki from a stray knee – was not serious enough to prevent Aki from going to South Africa.
“It’s improved quite a bit overnight and he’ll be OK for later in the week.
“We won’t being doing a hell of a lot the first couple of days anyway as we just try to get over the travel and sort out the time zones,” Rennie said.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have now moved on to the right side of the ledger in terms of wins, points and tries over their 18-year history, according to statistician Geoff Miller, having won more games than lost and scored more points and tries than conceded.
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