Injuries mount but Chiefs avoiding any excuses

01:10, Feb 24 2014
Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden barks out a play call during the Chiefs Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders.
Israel Dagg
Chiefs players Charlie Ngatai and Mils Muliaina attempt to bring down Israel Dagg.
Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs players Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams jump high for a high-ball against the Crusaders.
Robbie Fruean
Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean has a barnstroming game against his former Crusaders team.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow runs onto Waikato Stadium to face the Highlanders.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam runs into the tackle of Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams glides through a gap in the Highlanders defensive line.
Chiefs fans
Chiefs fans enjoyed a two-point victory against the Highlanders.
Michael Fitzgerald
Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald charges forward at the Highlanders.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow sprints away from a scrum.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe cuts through the Stormers' defence late in the game.
Aaron Cruden and Jean de Villiers
Aaron Cruden brings down Stormers second-five Jean de Villiers.
James Lowe
Chiefs wing James Lowe confronts the Stormers defence.
Tom Marshall
Tom Marshall toes the ball on in the Chiefs' impressive win over the Stormers.
2014 Chiefs season
Caille Visagie and Dean Greyling of the Bulls tackle Tom Marshall of the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld.
2014 Chiefs season
Prop Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs tries in vain to keep the ball under control against the Bulls in Pretoria.
Ben Tameifuna
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow tries to make a break against the Bulls in South Africa.
2014 Chiefs season
Jacques Du Plessis of the Bulls crashes trough the Chiefs' defensive line.
Chiefs 2014 Season
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick lines up Cheetahs hooker Adriaan Strauss for a hard tackle.
Chiefs 2014 season
Michael Fitzgerald makes a charge for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Chiefs 2014 season
Gareth Anscombe chases down a loose ball against the Cheetahs in South Africa.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu looks to offload after being grounded by the Melbourne Rebels' defence.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall on the charge for the Chiefs against the Rebels in Hamilton.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge against the Rebels at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs 2014 season
Sam Cane in action against the Melbourne Rebels.
Chiefs 2014 season
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs looks for support in the tackle of Kieran Reid of the Crusaders.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs loses possession in the slippery conditions during the Chiefs and Crusaders match.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs takes a high ball under pressure from Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders.
Chiefs 2014 season
Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies is tackled during their match against the Chiefs.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tevita Koloamatangi of the Chiefs is tackled during their match against the Brumbies.
Chiefs 2014 season
Liam Messam of the Chiefs runs the ball during their match against the Brumbies.
Chiefs 2014 Season
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs scores a try in the tackle of Franco Mostert of the Lions.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs scores a try against the Lions in Hamilton.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge at the Lions defence during their Super Rugby clash.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Jamie Mackintosh puts the head down to make some hard yards for his team against the Lions.
2014 Chiefs season
Fireworks go off at Yarrow Stadium ahead of the Chiefs' home clash with the Blues in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Tom Marshall, centre, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try for the Chiefs against the Blues in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Chiefs fans delighted to get the chance to cheer their team on in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Liam Messam, right, asks referee Mike Fraser to go to the TMO during the Chiefs' clash with the Blues.
Chiefs vs Waratahs
The Chiefs put the pressure on the Waratahs' Jacques Potgieter in New Plymouth.
Chiefs vs Waratahs
Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu take down Chiefs fullback Tom Marshall at Taranaki Stadium.
Conrad Smith
Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith makes a pass during his side's clash with the Chiefs.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by Dane Coles.
Brodie Retallick
Brodie Retallick runs it against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Tawera Kerr-Barlow flicks a pass out during the Chiefs' clash with the Waratahs.
Aaron Cruden
Chiefs first-five Aaron Cruden attempts to sidestep a tackle during his side's clash with the Waratahs.
Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Asaeli Tikoirotuma from the Chiefs during his side's 24-16 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton.
Hadleigh Parkes
Hadleigh Parkes from the Hurricanes celebrates a try during his side's Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Ben Tameifuna
Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs steps out of the tackles of Ardie Savea (left) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes during his side's round 18 Super Rugby win in Hamilton.
Jeremy Thrush
Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes charges into Liam Messam of the Chiefs with the assistance of Ben Franks (left) during the round 18 clash between the two sides at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Ardie Savea
Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes is tackled by Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden during the round 18 fixture at Waikato Stadium.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick reaches for the ball.
Brodie Retallick
Halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow topples over in the Chiefs' round 19 Super Rugby game against the Blues.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs first five Aaron Cruden barks orders at his team during their Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs players Aaron Cruden and Tim Nanai-Williams share their joy at making it to the Super Rugby playoffs after beating the Blues at Eden Park.
Brodie Retallick
Good sportsmanship was on show after the Chiefs beat the Blues at Eden Park with Bundee Aki sharing a moment with Ma'a Nonu.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki runs into the Brumbies defence at GIO Stadium.
Pat McCabe
Brumbies second-five Pat McCabe is lifted off his feet in a Chiefs tackle.
Pauliasi Manu
Pauliasi Manu illustrates the Chiefs' disappointment at the final whistle.
Ben Tameifuna
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna on the charge.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam brings down Brumbies No 10 Christian Lealiifano.
Augustine Pulu
Augustine Pulu looks to break a Brumbies tackle.

The Chiefs might need to add a new wing to their casualty ward, but don't expect that to alter their focus of trying to lead Super Rugby's New Zealand Conference going into next week's bye.

Friday night's tough-fought 18-10 season-opening victory over arch conference rivals the Crusaders in Christchurch added five more names to the injured list, while removing the only remaining specialist No7 in the squad, Tevita Koloamatangi, from the match twice with chronic cramp.

Leading halfbacks Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Augustine Pulu are both in doubt.

But head coach Dave Rennie says that, just like before, they won't be talking about that as a team but will be planning to take on the Highlanders in their first home game in Hamilton this Saturday night with who is available, knowing there is a chance to go into the bye as the only unbeaten NZ team.

"Even though we've got these injuries we don't tend to talk about them," Rennie said.

Crucially they just focused on who they had available for the next game.

"When you're bringing young guys in you don't want to be making excuses in the media about who's missing because that just gives them an out.

"We talk positively about it because we believe those guys will lift and the other senior players will help bring them through and the guys chosen will do the job.

"Ultimately they end up going in with confidence because you're talking about them confidently, you believe in them and you know you've got a good enough side to do the job," he said.

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick and tighthead prop Ben Afeaki suffered the most spectacular injuries on Friday night with their nasty head clash that left both covered in blood and groggy and saw both fail the sideline concussion tests.

"We've got to assess where Brodie and Ben are at so we'll go through the concussion protocols with them, but they're not too bad by the sounds of things.

"Brodie's concern is more around his neck, but we won't take any risks with these guys, so they need to go through the process and we'll know a bit better over the next couple of days where they're at."

Fullback Mils Muliaina's return to the Chiefs has not lasted long after he reinjured the elbow he had surgery on last year in Japan and requires a further operation that will put him out for a lengthy period.

No 8 Kane Thompson injured his groin in the first half and he will be reassessed over the next couple of days, while Pulu requires a scan on his knee to assess the severity of his injury. Fellow No 9 Kerr-Barlow, who rolled his ankle in training last Thursday, will have a scan on his foot today to see if there is anything broken.

Koloamatangi should be available again this week with Sam Cane still out with his knee injury and Tanerau Latimer still doubtful as he battles to regain strength in his hand following elbow surgery to repair nerve damage.

His lack of rugby time, as opposed to conditioning, due to pre-season injuries, had got to his body in the end in the form of severe cramping.

Loose forward Liam Squire will be available for selection this week after also coming back from injury and having his first full-on week of rugby training last week.

Hooker Mahonri Schwalger is a chance to be available this week after eye surgery and there is an outside chance Latimer will be passed fit.

"Regardless we'll be able to put a team together and we're confident it will be a pretty competitive side," Rennie said.

The set-piece, particularly the lineout, would again be a focus this week.

"We need more ball and it's not just winning ball but the quality of ball we win - if we can do that we can apply more pressure on the opposition."

The quality of their ball retention and execution of their structures also needed work, but the defence had been outstanding.

"We're a pretty grounded bunch and we know the Highlanders are playing with a lot of spirit as well so they'll be a handful at the weekend.

"I thought they were really combative at the weekend and playing very similar to us in regard to getting a lot of forwards carrying in tight off nine, while they were very good post-tackle, getting guys in and slowing the ball down so we'll really have to be real sharp in that area," Rennie said.

Advertisement

Aaron Cruden
TIME FOR TOUGHNESS: Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden and his teammates won't be using a mounting injury-toll as an excuse leading into next weekend's game with the Highlanders.

Waikato Times