There is no doubt there were plenty of sighs of relief in the Chiefs' camp this week after seeing Brodie Retallick running freely at training.
The 22-year-old test lock is a key man in the Chiefs pack despite his tender years and the Chiefs need the 2.04 metre young giant as they go up against a Crusaders pack in this Saturday's Super Rugby semifinal at Waikato Stadium that possesses the other two incumbent All Blacks second rowers.
His workaholic approach to games as well as his lineout prowess is badly needed with the visiting Crusaders one of the best in the competition at disrupting opposition lineout ball.
But the big man spent most of last week in a moonboot after spraining his ankle in the last game of the Chiefs' regular season against the Blues at Eden Park a fortnight ago.
If the Chiefs had had to play a qualifier last weekend instead of enjoying the bye they got for finishing top of the round-robin Retallick would not have been able to play but the break has enabled him to get himself right.
"[The moonboot] came off on Friday so I had the weekend without it on, my workload was pretty light last week and then yesterday just did a wee bit of straight line running and then into it today," Retallick said
"Hopefully it will be pretty good, so it's looking positive for the weekend."
Retallick did not quite finish Tuesday morning's training session, coming to the sideline to ice his ankle as a precaution, and said he would keep icing it after all training sessions to keep any swelling at bay.
But when the injury occurred he was not quite so confident that his season wasn't over.
"When it happened it was pretty sore and I said to [the team physiotherapist] I'd hurt my ankle, but I battled on a wee bit and went into the sheds at halftime and it was pretty stiff and sore so we just pulled the pin there and then.
"I wasn't too sure [how bad it was] but I went for an MRI scan a couple of days later and it wasn't too bad so I was always pretty positive after that that I would be right for this weekend."
Retallick got through his debut Super Rugby season last year without any injuries of consequence and reckons the hamstring and ankle problems he has suffered this year are the worst two he has ever had.
But for him the key thing is he gets to play again against the Crusaders, as a player who originally comes from Canterbury.
"When we went down there a couple of weeks ago they really set the standard of where we need to be at the weekend and we know what they are going to bring and probably a little bit more."
But Retallick said there was definitely an extra edge among the Chiefs squad this week, but knows they have to bring it to the game and not leave it on the training field.
"[Before the last game against the Crusaders] we talked a big game that week and we knew what we needed to do but we just didn't execute it and they did.
"When they've got you under the pump they're a hard side to claw back and we didn't do that either.
"We wanted to go down there and secure that No1 spot and instead we left it up to chance and if the Bulls had won [their last game] they would have finished No1 instead.
"We wanted to knock those last two games off convincingly and we didn't really do it so we want to go out this week and really put a good performance out there," he said.
Meanwhile, Chiefs CEO Gary Dawson is happy with ticket sales for the semifinal, despite 7000 still remaining yesterday afternoon.
Dawson is still expecting a capacity crowd of 25,000 and said it was normal for there to be a flurry of sales on Friday and Saturday.
While last year's final sold out in two hours, he said it took right up until kickoff for last year's Chiefs-Crusaders semi tickets to be sold.
- Waikato Times
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