Preview: Chiefs v Force

Date published: March 25 2016

The Chiefs will want to make amends for their Round Two loss to the Lions – this was their only other home game – when they host the Force at the FMG Stadium on Saturday.

The Chiefs have won three of their four matches so far, though in each of these they were trailing at half-time. 

They 2013 champions have recorded away wins against the Kings and Jaguares and in quick turnaround time they face the Force in Hamilton this week. 

The late try from replacement scrum-half Brad Weber ensured that they record a come-from-behind win in Buenos Aires last week. 

Even with the Round Two defeat at the hands of the Lions, the Chiefs are still one point ahead of the Highlanders as they top the New Zealand Conference. 

The Australian side suffered two home defeats to the Rebels in Round One and a 41-6 thumping against the Hurricanes last week, and they currently occupy the second last position on the Australian Conference with just one win to show after four matches. 

That 22-6 win in Brisbane over the Reds remains the Force's only victory for now and this week they face an in-form Chiefs side and at home. The New Zealanders will be tough to beat.

The home side have recorded seven victories from the previous nine times that these sides have met. 

Damian McKenzie and Charles Ngatai have proving to be dangerous weapons in the Chiefs' arsenal. The full-back – who is the overall top points scorer – has been impressive every week gaining valuble meters for the Hamilton side. McKenzie has beaten 21 defenders in total – the most by any player – with inside centre Ngatai is in second place with 19 defenders beaten. 

The last time the teams met: A red card to scrum-half Ian Prior in the first half allowed the Chiefs to take advantage of the extra man in Hamilton. They crossed the line on four occasions – including a penalty try – resulting in the ninth straight loss for the Australians. Poor discipline overshadowed a spirited fight-back from the visitors as they hit back hard with three second half tries which resulted in them securing a bonuns point for four tries. This was however not enough for them to stage a comeback, as the Chiefs won 35-27.

Players to watch:  Powerhouse midfielder Charles Ngatai will hope he can continue his sterling form in the number twelve jersey by gaining valuable metres and beating defenders at regular intervals. All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden has dictated matters well both on attack and defence for the Chiefs. He has been instrumental in putting Ngatai into space. 

Veteran pivot Peter Grant has settled and adjusted well to life in Perth and is once again in the driving seat this week, full of experience at 31. With some solid scrumming prop Pekahou Cowan was one of the form forwards in the loss to the Hurricanes last week. Cowan made crucial tackles in a match where the scoreboard could have run away with the Force.  

Team news: Three Chiefs players look set to make their debuts, while Chiefs stalwart Stephen Donald is set to don the Chiefs jersey for the first time since 2011. In the forwards, tighthead prop Siate Tokolahi is promoted from the bench, Taleni Seu gets an opportunity to impress at lock. There are just two changes in the backs, with Brad Weber to start at scrum-half and Seta Tamanivalu to wear jersey 13, replacing Anton Lienert-Brown who is unavailable for selection due to a minor knee injury. 

Meanwhile, Force head coach Michael Foley has made two changes to his matchday squad for this one. Hooker Heath Tessmann comes into the starting lineup along with Brynard Stander who gets the nod at blindside flanker. Foley says the side had learnt some valuable lessons from last week’s loss to the Hurricanes. 

Form:  The Chiefs have won three out of their last four matches which includes a dramatic 77th-minute try from scrum-half Weber securing an away win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. Returning home for the first time since their only loss to the Lions in Round Two, the Chiefs will hope to bring their 100 percent winning rate to Hamilton.

The Force's only win was on March 5, away to the Reds. Losses to the Rebels and Hurricanes at home in Round One and Four respectively have certainly not boost their confidence for this one. The Australians have never recorded a win against Chiefs in New Zealand.

Prediction: The 2013 champions will want to bring their winning form back home after a good tour, while the Force should put up a good fight, but that won't stop the Hamilton side. Chiefs by at least 20 points.

Previous results:

2015: Chiefs won 35-27 in Hamilton
2014: Force won 15-18 in Perth
2013: Chiefs won 22-21 in Pukekohe
2012: Chiefs won 20-12 in Perth
2010: Chiefs won 37-19 in Perth
2009: Chiefs won 31-13 in Hamilton
2008: Force won 21-22 in Perth

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sam McNicol, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden(cc), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (cc) 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Taleni Seu, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 19 James Tucker, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Toni Pulu

Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Solomoni (Junior Rasolea), 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pekahou Cowan 
Replacements: 16 Chris Heiberg, 17 Nathan Charles, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Sitiveni (Stevie) Mafi, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Albert Nikoro 

Date: Saturday, March 26
Venue: FMG Stadium, Waikato
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams, Brett Johnson
TMO: Glenn Newman