Latimer wants to leave Chiefs on positive note

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2014
Tanerau Latimer
Photosport
MOTIVATION: Tanerau Latimer will head to Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season after seven seasons and over 100 games for the Chiefs.

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Tanerau Latimer will head to Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season after seven seasons and over 100 games for the Chiefs.

But while he doesn't want to go out on a losing note he also won't use his pending departure as motivation in the final two weeks of the regular season.

''I'll play it the same as when I played my 50th, I'll play it the same as when I played my first game and right through,'' said Latimer, who has signed with Japanese club Toshiba for next season, joining former Chiefs Richard Kahui and Steven Bates there.

''It could be the last few games I have for the Chiefs here in New Zealand, but the motivation is there for me to win anyway.

''I just want this team to win. It has been a great ride the last two seasons and I'd love to get this team back there.''

Latimer was part of Chiefs teams before the current regime that failed to reach the playoffs and knows what it feels like, but admits the expectations are higher now after winning back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

The frustration being felt by the players now was because of that and the high standards they set for themselves, but the positive was that despite six losses and two draws the Chiefs were still in with a shot of reaching the playoffs.

''We've done it from one and two [seedings] before so we might as well try it from six and see if we can win it from there.

''I think if we did manage to respond to [the challenge] and get into the playoffs and make a final and whatnot I'd say I'd be more proud of this effort than the last two because it's been a tougher road in some ways,'' he said.

It was a big test of the Chiefs' character to see how well they could respond to their predicament, sitting ninth overall on the points table with two regular season games to go and last in the New Zealand Conference, although only six points off first place.

Latimer said while it was sad leaving the Chiefs at the end of the season, heading to Japan just a couple weeks after their last game, it was a new adventure for him and his wife and young family.

His departure leaves yet another big hole in the Chiefs' collective experience. They have been able for the last couple of years to operate a one-two punch with Latimer and current All Black Sam Cane, who is currently injured.

But now they are going to have to find a suitable replacement with no other specialist openside flankers, apart from Cane, in the squad.

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Their other area of concern is outside backs with Mils Muliaina gone, Robbie Robinson gone for this season and his future career in date due to a debilitating hip injury, Asaeli Tikoirotuma going to England at the end of the season and midfield back Bundee Aki also heading offshore to Ireland.

Sonny Bill Williams will replace Aki and certainly stiffen the midfield considerably, but a marquee player is needed out wide and names like Hosea Gear and Frank Halai have been tossed around in some quarters.

Hooker looks sorted despite the departure of Hika Elliot and the likely departure of Mahonri Schwalger. The Chiefs have already signed Quentin MacDonald from Munster and have young rakes Nathan Harris and Rhys Marshall also.

There is also a locking berth available with Ross Filipo heading off, while the question mark over the playing future of tighthead prop Ben Afeaki, suffering continuing concussion symptoms, means there could be a vacancy there.

- Waikato Times

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