Charlie Ngatai is confident that the Chiefs can cope without star playmaker Aaron Cruden.
The All Blacks five-eighth will definitely miss Friday night’s Super Rugby match against the Western Force in Hamilton and could yet be ruled out for up to eight months if scans late on Monday confirm the worst fears of a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
That would result in Cruden missing the entire Test season, including the World Cup.
The contenders to replace the 37-Test All Black for the Chiefs are Andrew Horrell, who came on when Cruden limped off midway through the first half of the 26-9 win against the Crusaders in Christchurch, and the McKenzie brothers – Marty and Damian.
While losing Cruden is a blow, Ngatai said: “Nothing changes. We’re confident in our other first-fives that they can play there and do their role. It will be good for them to get that opportunity.”
Ngatai, who is no stranger to spells on the sideline with injury, backed Cruden to come back stronger, whenever that might be.
“Just doing all the right things, you’ll come back quicker,” the midfielder said.
“I guess you’ve got to keep positive. You can’t let yourself down. You know if you do all the work you’re going to get back faster and stronger.”
Ngatai made his return to the Chiefs starting side in Friday’s comprehensive win in Christchurch after ankle and hamstring problems that had kept him out since the round three 40-16 romp against the Crusaders.
He resumed his successful partnership with Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield and is keen for that to continue.
“I just try and feed off what he does,” explained Ngatai.
“He creates holes and opens up chances for me. If we can play alongside each other a bit more this season it would be good for the team.”