Injuries force backline reshuffle for Chiefs
The Chiefs have been forced to completely rejig their backline for Friday night's Super Rugby match against the Force in Pukekohe.
With centre Tim Nanai-Williams sidelined by a groin injury, back-up Charlie Ngatai still out with a hamstring, Andrew Horrell recovering from a serious high ankle sprain and Richard Kahui gone for the season for shoulder muscle surgery, the Chiefs' midfield ranks have thinned considerably.
That means yet another midfield combination will start against the Force with former Chief and New Zealand Sevens player Save Tokula named in the No13 jersey alongside Bundee Aki, who will again wear 12.
Aki is one of only two backs to retain their places in the starting XV, the other being right winger Lelia Masaga.
First five-eighth Aaron Cruden, bugged by a number of ongoing injury niggles, will be on the bench for the first time in his two seasons with the Chiefs.
The No 10 jersey will instead be worn by Gareth Anscombe, who moves from fullback to the position he specialised in until this season. Robbie Robinson comes in for his first start of the season at fullback, having recovered from a groin injury that has plagued him since last year.
Patrick Osborne, now over his hamstring injury, replaces Asaeli Tikoirotuma on the left wing after impressing off the bench against the Reds four weeks ago. It is the first game Tikoirotuma has not started this season and he moves to the reserves.
The other backline change sees Tawera Kerr-Barlow return at halfback after recovering from his broken jaw, with Brendon Leonard out of the 22 and August Pulu keeping his spot on the bench.
In the forwards the loose forwards and second row stay the same but the Chiefs' front row is changed completely with Ben Afeaki returning from his high ankle sprain to take the tighthead prop berth and Toby Smith back at loosehead after being on the bench last week and Hika Elliot replacing Mahonri Schwalger at hooker.
Chiefs: Robbie Robinson, Lelia Masaga, Save Tokula, Bundee Aki, Patrick Osborne, Gareth Anscombe, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Matt Vant Leven, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Afeaki, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith. Res: Mahonri Schwalger, Ben Tameifuna, Mike Fitzgerald, Tanerau Latimer, August Pulu, Aaron Cruden, Asaeli Tikoirotuma.