An unlikely 2011 World Cup-winning hero, Stephen Donald is set to play his first match for the injury-hit Chiefs in five years when they meet the Western Force.
The former All Blacks five-eighth has been included on the bench for Saturday’s Super Rugby match in Palmerston North as the Australian conference leaders attempt to overcome a huge injury toll and a brutal travel schedule.
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow (head knock) and impressive centre Anton Lienert-Brown (knee) are the latest players ruled out to be ruled out in the wake of the thrilling 30-26 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires last weekend.
In all, the Chiefs have 12 players in their casualty ward, among them prop Pauliasi Manu, who suffered a season-ending achilles injury in training on Wednesday, and lock Johan Bardoul, who broke a thumb against the Jaguares.
Donald, 32, made 85 appearances for the franchise before heading overseas after the 2011 World Cup, where he gained a surprise late call up to the All Blacks bench for the final and kicked the decisive goal to beat France at Eden Park.
Coming in to replace Kerr-Barlow, Lienert-Brown and Bardoul has accounted are Brad Weber, Seta Tamanivalu and Taleni Seu.
At tighthead prop, Siate Tokolahi is promoted off the bench for Japan international Hiroshi Yamashita.
Also among the reserves are four newcomers to Super Rugby in prop Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, flanker Sam Henwood, halfback Kayne Hammington and outside back Toni Pulu.
The Chiefs will be grateful to be playing at home after playing in South Africa then making a torturous trip to Buenos Aires before returning to New Zealand this week.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Sam McNicol, Seta Tamanivalu, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-capt), Brad Weber, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-capt), Tom Sanders, Taleni Seu, Michael Allardice, Siate Tokolahi, Hika Elliot, Mitchell Graham. Res: Rhys Marshall, Atu Moli, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, James Tucker, Sam Henwood, Kayne Hammington, Stephen Donald, Toni Pulu.