Planet Rugby

Preview: Chiefs v Blues

07th May 2014 19:24


Pauliasi Manu for the Chiefs against Blues in pre season

Carrying: Pauliasi Manu

The Blues will be keen to end a horror run of away form when they run out at Yarrow Stadium to face the Chiefs in another key derby fixture on Friday.

Not since February last year has the Auckland outfit picked up a win on the road, but there are more than a few signs that drought will soon end.

Beating the 'Tahs and Reds puts them back in contention to top the New Zealand conference, although the play-offs is more of a likely hope.

Finishing at the summit ahead of their four local rivals would indeed be some achievement for the Blues, who struggled in patches earlier in the term. But with Ma'a Nonu in good form, Charles Piutau consistently solid, Patrick Tuipulotu making a name for himself and other senior players stepping up to the plate, they are just five points off the Chiefs. Of course, the other three franchises are all locked four points off the top.

If, and it's a big if, they do win, home games at their fortress then follow against the Sharks and Hurricanes which will be pivotal to their year.

Sir John Kirwan will undoubtedly be happy with the turnaround though - with the Benji Marshall experiment over - as their home form has given them a chance of business end action. However, their Achilles heel on the road is what may cost them the play-offs.

Beating the Chiefs is a tall order without the services of captain Luke Braid but Brendon O'Connor will continue to do a good job in his absence. Meanwhile, Ihaia West could be a wildcard late in the game as his try-scoring cameo last week should warrant him more time.

The Chiefs enter the clash buoyed by a decent showing against the Lions, who they ran six tries past in a good hit-out that saw Tim Nanai-Williams, Bundee Aki and Charlie Ngatai gain in confidence. Unfortunately for the latter he will miss out this week due to an injury as Nanai-Williams moves into outside centre while Tom Marshall takes the full-back jersey, with TNW's combination in tandem with Aki one that impressed early in 2013's season.

Dave Rennie will be desperate to recapture such form and that fluidity in their play and hooker Nathan Harris' performance last Saturday was a positive first step ahead of the run-in. Solid set-piece ball helped their eight press on, which in turn gave the backs a platform. Backing that up against the Blues will be key as he goes toe-to-toe with Keven Mealamu while Liam Messam faces Jerome Kaino as the Test window adds spice...if it needed it.

Previous results:

2013: Chiefs won 26-16 in Auckland
2013: Chiefs won 23-16 in Mount Maunganui
2012: Chiefs won 41-34 in Auckland
2012: Chiefs won 29-14 in Hamilton

Prediction: The hosts should be too savvy for the travelling Blues. Chiefs by 10!

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Pita Ahki.

Date: Friday, May 9
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, Taranaki
Kickoff: 19:35 local (08:35 GMT, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
Thursday , September 4
Otago vs Canterbury19:35
Friday , September 5
Tasman vs Waikato18:05
Northland vs Hawkes Bay20:05
Saturday , September 6
Auckland vs Wellington14:35
Taranaki vs Southland06:35
Sunday , September 7
Manawatu vs Counties Manukau14:35
Bay Of Plenty vs North Harbour16:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 30
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Friday , August 29
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
5Leicester Tigers00