Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says a “horses-for-courses” approach is behind his decision to start Marty McKenzie at five-eighth for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
With just one match remaining after this weekend, the Chiefs sit fifth on the overall table and third in the New Zealand conference.
And after last week’s 36-9 loss to the Highlanders, they desperately need a win to consolidate a top-six finish and a spot in the playoffs.
With All Blacks playmaker Aaron Cruden ruled out after rupturing his anterior cruciate knee ligament in April, Rennie has taken a mix-and-match approach to filling five-eighth, using Andrew Horrell, Damian McKenzie and Marty McKenzie.
Rennie says the Chiefs have used all three to good effect, and the decision to play Marty on Saturday hadn’t been taken without some thought.
“The type of game we want to play, he’ll be the best option for us but that doesn’t mean we won’t change that next week.
“If you look at Damian, who played really well against the Hurricanes and against the Bulls the following week, it’s a horses-for-courses thing,” he said.
“Marty’s just maybe a bit of an older head and can implement the plan better, while Damian can come off the bench and potentially break a game open, whether it’s at 10 or 15.”
The Chiefs pack has been bolstered by the return of All Blacks Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam, both back from shoulder injuries.
The front row also has a new look, with props Mitchell Graham and Siate Tokolahi starting either side of the consistent Hika Elliot.
Rennie said his team had learned some valuable lessons from their sound defeat in Invercargill last week.
“It’s about playing at the right end of the field, and applying pressure for long periods of time.
“We didn’t keep the ball enough, didn’t kick well enough, made errors down our end, and they punished us.”
Rennie has retained halfback Augustine Pulu, who will play his 50th match in Chiefs colours, while Tim Nanai-Williams and Horrell both return from the reserves.
Nanai-Williams will start on the left wing while Horrell comes in at inside centre to partner Charlie Ngatai in the midfield.
Bryce Heem moves to the right wing and Tom Marshall returns at fullback.
Chiefs: Tom Marshall, Bryce Heem, Charlie Ngatai, Andrew Horrell, Tim Nanai-Williams, Marty McKenzie, Augustine Pulu, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald, Siate Tokolahi, Hika Elliot, Mitchell Graham. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Pauliasi Manu, Jarrod Firth, Matt Symons, Ma’ama Vaipulu, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown.