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Chiefs coach wants players scrapping for positions

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James Mortimer     12 Jul 2012     Getty Images

The Chiefs need a bonus point win to lock up top spot on the table, but irrespective are guaranteed to win the New Zealand Conference, as well as having the first week of the Super Rugby Finals Series (Super Rugby Qualifiers) off.

But after a 28-21 loss to the seven-time champions last weekend, there has been a significant edge to training at the Chiefs headquarters, taking their defeat to the Crusaders as a reality check before looking to bring the Super Rugby trophy to Hamilton for the first time.

Rennie and Chiefs assistant coaches Wayne Smith and Tom Coventry made multiple changes to face the Hurricanes.

The alterations were not just the ushering back of key players, with co-captain Craig Clarke returning from flu, while number eight Kane Thompson has recovered from his back injury.

Other changes are ‘horses for courses’ style changes, with Robbie Robinson coming into the wing to give the Chiefs more sting on attack, while Andrew Horrell’s shift to custodian looks to give the New Zealand Conference champions more assuredness on defence.

Up front however the changes are designed to promote competition within the squad, with the most obvious talking point being the promotion of Tanerau Latimer to the starting XV.

Sam Cane, who impressed with a dynamic starting test debut against Ireland at the same ground, drops to the bench.

The only significant absence is Ben Afeaki, with the tighthead still on the sidelines due to concussion.

Rennie is following the same selection principles that have served the Chiefs well all season, and has clearly paid heed to the lessons that Super Rugby titles are not won by 15 men, but by an entire squad.

Speaking to the NZ Herald, Rennie said his troops were fired up for the coming month.

“They're pretty highly motivated, we've made a few changes and there's been a fair bit of edge at training,” he said.

“We've made a few changes but it's in line with what we've done over the past few weeks, things like the frontrowers sharing the load and a couple of guys coming back in from injury.”

“We want to make sure it's a competitive environment and there are guys scrapping for positions in the semifinal. We're looking at a couple of guys for that game. It's important that we have more than 15 guys fizzing along, we need the whole squad to be successful.”