Four Chiefs rewarded for a super season

Four All Blacks from a Super Rugby championship-winning Chiefs team might seem like a meagre return, but it's better than it appears on the surface.

In reality it is five - Sonny Bill Williams was not officially named in the squad because contractual issues remain to be sorted out. But he is in for all intents and purposes for the first two matches of the Rugby Championship, while Conrad Smith recovers from an eye injury.

Two Chiefs loose forwards made the squad, with Sam Cane continuing to be groomed as Richie McCaw's young openside understudy and co-captain Liam Messam's form in recent weeks being so irresistible it might just have forced a change of thinking by the selectors.

In the end they named six loose forwards when it had been signalled they were only going to select five.

That left room for only three locks, including the Chiefs' Brodie Retallick, and with Ali Williams still injured that means Craig Clarke was unlucky.

Aaron Cruden might only be the backup to Dan Carter in the No 10 jersey at this stage of his career but he was an automatic selection and Steve Hansen has made it clear halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow is almost certain to go on the end-of-year tour.

Hopefully the same applies to 20-year-old prop Ben Tameifuna, who has made huge strides in his debut season, but even if he doesn't tour he seems certain to be an All Black in the future. Fellow front-rower Ben Afeaki is another very close to selection. As Chiefs coach Dave Rennie points out, when a team is successful like his has been this year it thrusts players into the limelight and they earn recognition at national level.

But this All Black panel is wary of making too many changes at once.

The Chiefs now have the chance to create a legacy by building on this year's success and the Crusaders have shown just what that does to your stock of test All Blacks.

Waikato Times