Chiefs' without key players but welcome back Sowakula in time for Blues

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All Blacks lock Tupou Vaa'i is still recovering from the concussion he suffered against the Hurricanes, and wings Etene Nanai-Seturo and Jonah Lowe are out due to a hamstring injury and illness respectively.

 

It's a tough blow for the side and will test the reputation that the Chiefs have earned for driving through injury frustrations in the past. The one bright spot for the side was the return of No8 Pita Gus Sowakula, who will come off the bench.

 

Coach Clayton McMillan said they were looking for Sowakula to have an impact.

 

"He's devastating with ball in hand, and fit and fiery, and adds real value out on the field and that's what we're hoping for off the bench."

 

McMillan said during the side's second-half effort last week when they turned the corner in gaining a first win, there had been some rugby synonymous with Chiefs rugby.

 

"It was free-flowing and when we got our confidence up we looked really good and our challenge, right from week one has always been around our 80-minute performance. The Blues are too good a side to get away with 40 minutes of quality so we really need to rectify that," he said.

 

He expected the Blues would have been disappointed with aspects of their loss to the Crusaders at the weekend, which they would be looking to rectify, while the Chiefs' job would be to expose a few more cracks.

 

"They are already one of the teams that kick the ball the most through the first part of Super Rugby Aotearoa. I think on the back of a short turnaround we'll see an increase in that."

 

 

Central to containing the Blues' threats will be stemming some defence issues exposed in the first half of the competition.

 

McMillan said the outside backs had been suffering from issues in the side's defensive system, inside them, and the side was working hard to rectify that.

 

McMillan was happy with Kaleb Trask's returning effort at first five-eighths last week, even after the impact of Damien McKenzie's move from fullback to the flyhalf role and the impact of replacement Chase Tiatia at the rear.

 

"There's probably the perception that they're going out, and they're just free-balling stuff. But, I saw everything that they did was done in a composed fashion," he said.

 

"I think Damo [McKenzie] has played with a lot of maturity. His decision-making has been sound, which has probably been where he has been criticised in the past around being a little bit too much of a renegade.

 

"I think he's really tightened up his game, and he's picking all the right options. The by-product of that is that it looks flash."

 

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