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Blues will be another step up for Chiefs - Rennie

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the side had possibly kicked away too much ball and had not held onto it long enough against the Highlanders in their opening game.

By denying the Blues possession they would cut down the potential threat of first round hat-trick scorer centre Rieko Ioane who had been 'big, powerful and incredibly quick'.

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"We're going to have to shut down his space and defend really well on him but the thing is you have got to apply pressure all over the park so he doesn't get those opportunities," Rennie said.

He also had his own useful midfield weapon in Anton Lienert-Brown, who made his impact with the All Blacks last year.

"Anton is an outstanding tackler and that is going to be handy when you are talking about Rieko. Anton is also good at reading the play, defending against front-line players but also able to push back and shut down options back door.

"He's got the best creative pass in the game I reckon so his ability to challenge, but still link, maybe in unorthodox ways, and the other thing with Anton is his phenomenal work rate. If you look at the numbers we work off, his work rate off the ball is outstanding. It would be the best of any mid-fielder in this competition," he said.

All Blacks flanker Sam Cane was close to getting back into playing action after his ankle injury but an assessment will be left until later in the week. The main concern was his twisting and turning on the ankle and while keen to have him back, Rennie said it might be better to leave him another week.



No.8 Michael Leitch was ready to return after having an extensive break due to his Toshiba team not qualifying for the finals in Japan. Rennie said the Chiefs were keen to give him a good break given the amount of rugby he had been playing.

However, he said he was now 'in a great space, really lean and hungry to play'.

Rennie was pleased with the way the side's set piece performed against the Highlanders and it had been a big step up from the problems they faced in their last pre-season game against the Blues.

"The thing that impressed us most was our work for each other. Twenty metres out from our line we defended really well. We fell off a lot of first-up tackles which put us under pressure but our big men did a lot of defending around the edges and that highlights character," he said.

Friday night would be another step up for the side against an impressive Blues scrum led by former Chiefs prop Pauliasi Manu.

"We'll have to be better than last week, no doubt," he said.

"If you give them time and space you'll get pummelled as the Rebels did. They've got game breakers all over the park. We're going to have to defend well, we're going to have to hunt really well, potentially steal and slow down pill and we're going to have to work hard for each other."