New Chiefs Super Rugby head coach Colin Cooper has named his team to play reigning Super Rugby champions the Crusaders in their season opening match on Saturday. =
Cooper has selected a physical and experienced lineup to set the benchmark for the sides’ 2018 campaign.
The starting fifteen features five 2017 All Blacks in the forward pack alone, as well as the much-talked about combination of Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie in the number nine and ten jerseys.
“Everyone is talking about Damian, but it’s just about giving him time at ten. Brad is coming off injury, but played really well in the preseason and shows a lot of excitement if he can get into space”, said Colin Cooper.
“The pack is looking strong and competitive with a tight five of Aidan Ross, Nathan Harris, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird.
“Mitchell Brown had a very good game against the Brumbies [in last weeks’ preseason match] and brings a lot of physicality.
Sam Cane is an All Black with proven leadership, and a hard worker. Taleni Seu is new at number eight, but I like his skill, speed and power off the back of the scrum”.
The midfield combination of Johnny Faauli and Anton Lienert-Brown is strong, and the back three of Solomon Alaimalo, Shaun Stevenson, and Co-Captain Charlie Ngatai is particularly exciting for what they each bring to the field.
The Chiefs and the Crusaders have had quite the opening round history, facing off against each other three times in the last decade in Christchurch. They played in 2009 (Crusaders won 19-13), 2014 (Chiefs won 18-10), 2016 (Chiefs won 27-21), and now this weekend, which is eagerly awaited throughout the country.
Colin Cooper cannot wait to get the campaign started, saying: “We know it has to happen – we have to play down in Christchurch this year, so playing the Crusaders first, we’re not daunted by it, we’re excited by it, going to Christchurch and their back yard”.
1. Aidan Ross , 2. Nathan Harris , 3. Nepo Laulala , 4. Brodie Retallick , 5. Dominic Bird , 6. Mitchell Brown , 7. Sam Cane – Captain , 8. Taleni Seu , 9. Brad Weber , 10. Damian McKenzie , 11. Solomon Alaimalo , 12. Johnny Faauli , 13. Anton Lienert-Brown , 14. Shaun Stevenson , 15. Charlie Ngatai (c)
Replacements : 16. Liam Polwart , 17. Atunaisa Moli , 18. Angus Ta’avao , 19. Liam Messam , 20. Lachlan Boshier , 21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi , 22. Marty McKenzie , 23. Sean Wainui