Chiefs change backline for Super playoff

An injury-hit Chiefs have rejigged their backline and forward pack for Saturday’s sudden-death qualifying final against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Andrew Horrell’s experience means he has been named at five-eighth, knocking Marty McKenzie out of the side, while McKenzie’s younger brother Damien is named at fullback after Tom Marshall’s knee injury.

Centre Charlie Ngatai, after suffering a head knock in the 21-13 loss to the Hurricanes in New Plymouth on Saturday, is replaced by Tim Nanai-Williams.

Assistant coach Tom Coventry says Horrell has played finals before and it is hoped his experience will contribute on Saturday.

“We are probably looking for getting the most-experienced backline on the field as we can.”

The Chiefs weren’t going to rush Ngatai back either.

“We have such a bad run with boys in our team. I suppose we are bit overcautious at the moment and maybe the whole game is in general around head knocks.

“Unless they are 100 (per cent), we are just not prepared to risk it.”

Sonny Bill Williams is retained at inside centre after overcoming a back injury which had sidelined him for the previous four games. Halfback Brad Weber and wingers Bryce Heem and James Lowe keep their places.

In the forwards, coach Dave Rennie has recalled two players after a rest week: All Blacks openside Sam Cane and hooker Hika Elliot, who will play his 100th Super Rugby match.

Skipper Liam Messam moves back to No.8, allowing Michael Fitzgerald to come in at blindside flanker.

Fifth-choice halfback Kayne Hammington has been called onto the reserves bench after Augustine Pulu’s broken arm and will make his Super Rugby debut if used.

The Chiefs have lost both games against the Highlanders this year – 20-17 in Hamilton in round four and 36-9 in Invercargill in round 16.

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Bryce Heem, Tim Nanai-Williams, Sonny Bill Williams, James Lowe, Andrew Horrell, Brad Weber, Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Michael Fitzgerald, Brodie Retallick, Matt Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Pauliasi Manu. Res: Quentin MacDonald, Siate Tokolahi, Jamie Mackintosh, Mitchell Crosswell, Michael Leitch, Kane Hammington, Marty McKenzie, Seta Tamanivalu.

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
Stay up to date with the latest sports news
Follow our social accounts to get exclusive content and all the latest sporting news!