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Chiefs determined despite Semi disappointment

Thursday, May 5, 2005    NZPA    

The defending champions and last year's surprise packet are still mathematical possibilities of making the play-offs though both concede pride is all there is to play for at Canberra Stadium.

The last time the sides met the Brumbies won through to the 2004 final with a commanding 32-17 victory.

"The circumstances are a little different," Chiefs second five-eighth David Hill conceded.

"There's not as much riding on it in terms of a semifinal spot, there's not a cherry at the end of it for us but the motivation is there.

"We haven't lost any determination or desire to get a win."

Hill said the ninth-placed New Zealanders were simply aiming for two wins on their three-match road trip -- no easy task considering they have not won in the Australian capital since 1999.

They got a South African monkey off their back with a historic first win against the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend but are taking nothing for granted despite the Brumbies' high injury toll and five consecutive losses.

"It's never an easy place to win," Hill said.

"Without (George) Gregan, (Stephen) Larkham and Scott Fava, it doesn't help (them)."

The Chiefs had expected Larkham to return but a Brumbies spokesman said the Wallabies veteran would not compromise his recovery from an arm injury with the international calendar looming.

"If we'd been in the running it might have been different but you won't see Steven again (in this year's Super 12)," he said.

Former All Black Hill is also no certainty to play on Saturday after suffering a pinched nerve in his shoulder against the Stormers.

He was confident after receiving physiotherapy but needs to get through a training session in Sydney tomorrow before the team is named.

"I've still got a couple of days to let it rest -- I'm pretty sure it'll be right."

Meanwhile, Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher today made several changes to the team over-run by the Hurricanes 37-49 in Wellington last weekend.

Clyde Rathbone returns from a knee injury and will resume his position on the right wing while Mark Gerrard returns to the left wing after playing a difficult season at fullback.

Gerrard scored 10 tries during the Brumbies title charge last year but hasn't scored in his six matches this season.

"It was always going to be different for me (at fullback) after playing on the wing the last couple of seasons but I've been a bit disappointed with my season so far," Gerrard said.

"I still think my position is fullback but there are a number of things I have to work on in order to be a quality No 15.

"In terms of positional play and defensively I still have a lot to learn."

Rookie Ben Batger will start at fullback while Sam Norton-Knight, 21, takes over at pivot from Matt Giteau who reverts to second five-eighth.

Lock Alister Campbell has been retained in the starting lineup alongside Mark Chisholm who returns to the run-on side at the expense of Radike Samo.

Flanker Julian Salvi, 19, is set to make his debut off the bench if George Smith cannot last the distance after suffering rib cartilage against the Hurricanes.