Fruean ruled out of Chiefs trip to Australia, SA

EVAN PEGDEN AND IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 11:35 17/03/2014
Robbie Fruean
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Robbie Fruean made a great start to the Super Rugby season with his new Chiefs team but now further heart problems have put his future in doubt.

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The unbeaten Chiefs have announced Robbie Fruean will not travel with them to Perth and South Africa and will be out for four to eight weeks.

The back-to-back Super Rugby champions, who currently top the New Zealand conference, head off on their three-match overseas tour tomorrow, flying to Perth for next Saturday night's match against the Force before going on to South Africa to play the Bulls and Cheetahs.

Fruean will now have further treatment on his heart - an ablation procedure for an arrhythmia and will remain in New Zealand while the Chiefs head overseas.

It's the same procedure that rugby player Gus Collins and former rower Rob Waddell had and is set to rule Fruean out for between four to eight weeks.

Fruean had his second open-heart surgery last year to replace a faulty valve but started the season with a bang after switching from the Crusaders to the Chiefs.

He took a knock to the head during their 36-20 win over the Stormers at Waikato Stadium on Friday night but also suffered from a sped-up heartbeat, which left him short of breath. He had been on medication to control that.

Meanwhile prop Ben Afeaki has recovered from injury and will take his place on tour.

Afeaki, who was concussed in a head clash with Brodie Retallick during the opening match of the season against the Crusaders on February 22, had to pass a concussion test to be named.

Both wing James Lowe (medial cruciate ligament damage to his knee) and centre Charlie Ngatai (torn calf) are confirmed as missing the trip, with Lowe out for an estimated four to six weeks and Ngatai for six to eight weeks.

That means young wider training group midfield back Anton Leinert-Brown, 18, who was trialling for the New Zealand Under-20 team at the weekend, will travel with the squad.

He will join fellow midfield backs Andrew Horrell and Tom Marshall, while versatile outside backs Tim Nanai-Williams, Mils Muliaina and Asaeli Tikoirotuma will also provide cover in that area.

Flanker Sam Cane, halfback Augustine Pulu and No 8 Kane Thompson have recovered from knee injuries and will  travel but lock/loosie Ross Filipo is still out with a rotator cuff injury he is trying to rehab rather than have surgery on.

And backs Robbie Robinson and Bundee Aki are still out, Aki likely to be back from shoulder surgery in time for the match against the Rebels on April 12.

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Rennie said the trip worked out well for them, going to Perth first to play the Force and therefore able to break up their travel on the way to South Africa.

"It's similar timelines and a shorter trip [than going directly to South Africa] and we don't have to leave till Tuesday.

"Immediately after the game [against the Force] we jump on a plane about midnight which fits in with our sleep patterns and we are away for three weeks, so it's an opportunity to get a bit of work done because the boys don't have to go home at night."

The Chiefs play both their South African games - against the Bulls (Pretoria) and Cheetahs (Bloemfontein) - at high altitude and will travel straight to Johannesburg to prepare, and then afterwards hope to use the benefits of training and playing on the high veld when they return to host the Rebels in Hamilton.

They are sitting pretty at the top of the New Zealand conference and second overall, five points behind the only other unbeaten team, South Africa's Sharks, who have played one extra game.

The Chiefs have three wins out of three and 13 points - five better than the second-placed Kiwi team, the Crusaders, who have played one extra match, and six better than the third-placed Highlanders who like the Chiefs have played only three.

Rennie said Friday night's win - providing their first bonus point of the season - was a step up but there was still plenty of room for improvement and they had missed the chance to put the Stormers away earlier in the match after going 24-6 up a minute into the second spell.

The Chiefs will come up against a Force team who have strung together back-to-back bonus-point victories.

"They have certainly clicked really well in the last couple of weeks.

"All the talk was how they couldn't score four-try bonus points and they've got two in two weeks.

"They've made some real shifts," Rennie said.

Chiefs travelling squad: Ben Afeaki, Gareth Anscombe, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Michael Fitzgerald, Josh Hohneck, Andrew Horrell, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tanerau Latimer, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jamie Mackintosh, Pauliasi Manu, Rhys Marshall, Tom Marshall, Liam Messam, Mils Muliaina, Tim Nanai-Williams, Jordan Payne, Augustine Pulu, Brodie Retallick, Mahonri Schwalger, Liam Squire, Matt Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Kane Thompson, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Brad Webber

- Waikato Times

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