Hurricanes test squad depth against Chiefs

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The Hurricanes will be without captain Brad Shields, who has a quad injury, and Du'Plessis Kirifi, who has bone bruising on a knee. Neither are long-term injuries. Peter Lakai will start on the openside with Devan Flanders, in his 50th Super Rugby game, on the blindside and Brayden Iose at No8. TK Howden will come off the bench.

Prop Tyrel Lomax is still out but will likely return by the quarterfinal round. Pasilio Tosi will start on the tighthead side of the scrum.

The Hurricanes exposed younger players in their squad last weekend, which was valuable for the squad. While the performance was not as good as they wanted, they had learnt a lot.

Coach Clark Laidlaw said, "It's given us a chance to launch into the back end of the season."

Laidlaw said it was unrealistic to think the Hurricanes could win every game of the season. Their loss to the Blues was a tight game, and they acknowledged they had a poor game against the Brumbies.

But there were lessons about individuals and the Hurricanes' game in those losses.

"So, now it's around simplifying our game, what really works and what we think works, what combinations we think are robust and trying to pick our best team each week to win one game at a time."

The Chiefs will be a different team to the Blues.

"They're a bit more expansive. They've got the best first five-eighths in the competition in Damian McKenzie.

"They've got cohesion around their coaching group and players that allows them to be clear on how they want to play the game and their identity, which is highly physical and fast and aggressive.

"We like the way they play so it'll be a good challenge for us."

With two rounds before the playoffs, it was a perfect scenario because they knew what to expect when playing New Zealand teams.

"We've got huge respect for the Chiefs; we're under no illusions of how tough it will be to go up and try to win up there. 

"As I've said, they play a fast, aggressive style of rugby, they're smart how they change up what they're doing. It will be a great occasion."

Loose forward Devan Flanders, who plays his 50th Super Rugby game, said the Hurricanes were ready for the physical contest they know they will face.

"They're big boys, they like to play through the front door and we're ready for that. We haven't had too many wins in Hamilton but we are looking forward to the weekend."

While the side would miss the experience of Shields and Kirifi, Flanders said the loose forwards were close and working towards the same goal.

"We're just trying to make each other better. 

"We've come together pretty nicely towards the playoffs."


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