Planet Rugby

Preview: Chiefs v Highlanders

28th February 2014 06:28

Share:

Jarrad Hoeata highlanders v chiefs

Must put in a shift: Hoeata

Saturday's action kicks-off with what could well be another Super Rugby humdinger between the Chiefs and Highlanders at Waikato Stadium.

It was a year and week ago that rugby was treated to an unbelievably frantic three minutes of action between these two sides at Forsyth Barr Stadium, summing up what was an enthralling game that saw Tim Nanai-Williams stand out at centre while Gareth Anscombe kicked superbly from full-back.

That 27-41 win for the Chiefs on the road kick started their title defence, but on home soil later that season it was a much tighter affair, with Nanai-Williams and Anscombe again starring in a 19-7 victory. We expect something high scoring this time around judging from the openers.

First-match cobwebs were blown off by Saturday's hosts as they sealed that win over the Crusaders, with their attacking game set to enjoy much more airtime seven days on against a Highlanders side that had the second worst tackle percentage in 2013, leaking a high 27.5 points per game.

Should the Highlanders not improve from a defensive standpoint then this Chiefs team has the tools to cut loose, as eyes turn to Robbie Fruean, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Liam Messam to name just three of their threats. Of course Ben Tameifuna will also look to get into Super Rugby debutant Kane Hames.

Are we writing the visitors off too easily? Maybe, as there was an encouraging grit evident in a team that's without the so-called bigger name players such as Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Kade Poki, Tamati Ellison, Tony Woodcock, Jamie Mackintosh and Colin Slade in 2014.

Step forward the likes of Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa and Liam Coltman, with the former impressing particularly in defence against the Blues. In fact, that showing saw the winger rewarded with a full-time contract which typifies the determination from these relative unknowns, much like the Blues of 2013. Shane Christie, who is benched this week for the returning John Hardie, also shone with his personal effort for the cause, making 21 tackles.

Up against the champions though, will this spirit be enough to shock a line-up that sees the return of Tanerau Latimer and Mahonri Schwalger? Both teams are missing their key lock in Brodie Retallick and Brad Thorn respectively but on balance this should be a home victory.

Prediction: Champions will be too strong. Chiefs by 15!

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahroni Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Webber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 James Lowe.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Malakai Fekitoa, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.

Date: Saturday, March 1
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 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
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
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
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
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
ITM Cup
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
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
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
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00