Cane, Latimer to miss Chiefs Super Rugby opener
The Chiefs will go into their opening game of the Super Rugby season in Christchurch on Friday without their two All Black open-side flankers.
Current test player Sam Cane has been ruled out for three to four weeks after injuring knee ligaments in last Friday night's final trial win over the Blues in Rotorua.
Both Cane and head coach Dave Rennie had been optimistic after that match that injury was not too serious but the weekend has revealed a different prognosis.
Former All Black Tanerau Latimer, who has vied strongly with Cane for the No 7 jersey in the Chiefs for the last two years, is still recovering after elbow surgery to repair a nerve problem.
Rennie said that meant wider training group loose forward Tevita Koloamatangi, from Tasman, would now likely start at open-side flanker against the Crusaders on Friday.
"Tevita played 50 minutes on Friday and he's likely to start," Rennie said.
"Liam [Messam] is an obvious option to provide cover there and Nick Crosswell has played six, seven and eight at this level as well. So we've got a fair bit of cover amongst that group, but Tevita is really a seven and has played most of his rugby at seven.
"It's only been this last year that because of Shane Christie down [in Tasman] that he's played six and eight as well," Rennie said.
At 1.89m and 105kg, Koloamatangi will certainly bring size and power to the position and impressed last Friday night against the Blues with his ball carrying and defence after Cane was invalided off in the first half.
The Chiefs still have a potential injury crisis in the backline, particularly in midfield where second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai and Andrew Horrell are both racing against time to prove their fitness after injuries, with Bundee Aki out until April after shoulder surgery.
"[Ngatai and Horrell] have both got to get through a bit of footy so they'll both have a light training tomorrow and then we'll build it up through the rest of the week and we're hopeful that at least one of those guys will be all right."
One back who impressed on Friday night was young Tasman winger James Lowe, although he was looking a little worse for wear after having stitches near his eye from a head knock that forced him from the field just before the end of the match.
Lowe, who took the national provincial championship by storm last year and got the attention of the Chiefs' coaches, showed he can transfer that form to Super Rugby with an impressive display in the final trial against the Blues.
Lowe, 21, made up for a reportedly disappointing performance against the Reds six days earlier in Toowoomba by showing all his attacking wares - power, speed, swerve and footwork - to score one try and set up another for big centre Robbie Fruean.
"I think that was a massive improvement on last week," Rennie said.
"He'd have been pretty disappointed with his contribution last week but he was really alert today, really powerful with ball in hand and created a bit of space for him and others around him."
Lowe said the Chiefs hadn't "been there physically" against the Reds and that translated into a disappointing performance, but he said they knew they had to step up against the Blues.
"With Liam [Messam] coming back in he's big on the Chiefs mana and he brought a lot of that, a lot of heart and soul to the game and it made a big difference," Lowe said.
"I wasn't too happy with how I played last week and I did a lot of reviews. Talking to the coaches they explained what they wanted from me and I just went out there and tried to do that and was happy with my performance."
Having the right people around him, saying the right things had helped boost his confidence to play at this level.