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Chiefs set their targets ahead of Blues

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Thursday, March 2, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge said the intent and desire to compete had been evident in last weekend's win by the Chiefs over the Highlanders while some of the aggression and desperation had been outstanding.

While the Chiefs enjoy a 10-game winning streak over the Blues, Strawbridge felt the Chiefs were lucky to get away with one of their wins against them last year and he had been impressed by the way the Blues had played.

"We got a touch-up in the pre-season, as we did last year, so they are definitely a team on the rise and we're going in with our eyes wide open," he said.

Flanker Lachlan Boschier had performed well off the bench last week and in the side's trial games while Mitch Karpik had quite a heavy load and had been knocked around a little during the win over the Highlanders last weekend.

"We've got two guys we've got the utmost faith and trust in and giving them each an opportunity in the first two hit-outs," he said.

No.8 Michael Leitch has had the benefit of a long break from a consistent diet of rugby but had advised the management that he was ready to play so they had opted to give him an opportunity early in the campaign.

"It's wonderful having him back. It's probably no secret that over six years we have mixed and matched a little over our loosies and we've had a number of guys do wonderful jobs for us at No.8, but Michael is a genuine international No.8 and having him back, and having his level-headedness and his professional approach around our environment, is wonderful for us," he said.

Strawbridge said the Chiefs were mindful of where circumstances had left them in the nature of their squad in recent seasons but had learnt that creating opportunities for all players was important because players needed to be ready for the level of competition when they came into the team.

Last year's game with Wales had seen Lachlan Boshier and Mitch Brown make powerful statements when having the chance to play international players.

"That's when they first came to our attention as being more than ready for this sort of stuff," he said.

The Blues were a team of powerful athletes and a lot of the game was one-on-one battles and the Chiefs had picked a team to cope with that.

Second five-eighths Johnny Faauli had learnt a lot during the last three or four weeks.

"I thought he did a good job last week, he's a really tough-minded individual. He loves being in a team environment, he brings a lot to it and he's getting more and more accurate. There's still a little way to go around his accuracy and he's tracking really positively. I thought he dealt with the physicality of that game last week really well," he said.