PREVIEW: Chiefs v Sunwolves

Getty Images

Friday, April 28, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 10: Chiefs v Sunwolves, Saturday 29 April, 7.35pm, FMG Stadium, Hamilton

Back from their African trip, the Chiefs have only half the usual adjustment to make as a result of a stopover in Perth. However, that game was not the most satisfying result and the pressure will be on to make the most of the familiarity with home in taking on the Sunwolves. It has been a tough tour already for the Japan-based side, losing to the Crusaders (3-50) and to the Highlanders (15-40). In both games the Sunwolves showed some spirit and fought hard until the end of the games, but it shapes as another tough assignment in Hamilton.

If there is one team in the Super Rugby competition who have been undeterred by injury, even when it has dug deep into their resources, it is the Chiefs. Consistently over the last five years they have pulled players from their squad and given them their chance, invariably meeting the demands required. This time it is halfback Jonathan Taumateine. With Tawera Kerr-Barlow rested and Brad Weber out with a broken leg, and Finlay Christie on suspension, it is an unexpected opportunity for the former NZ Under-20s player who will have to keep an eye on rival Fumiaki Tanaka who has plenty of tricks in his repertoire.

Having an experienced front row comprising Kane Hames, Hika Elliot and Nepo Laulala will be a welcome bonus for the Chiefs. They are a formidable, and experienced, unit and Laulala especially has plenty riding on getting back into gear quickly with All Blacks selection not too far into the future. But, equally, the combination in the loose will also provide plenty of interest. Mitch Karpik gets his chance on the openside flank while Tom Sanders has an opportunity that has been all too rare this season on the blindside with Sam Cane packing at No.8. The Sunwolves have some solid performers in Willie Britz at No.8 and captain Edward Quirk on the blindside. This should be an interesting area of confrontation.

Chiefs: 1.Kane Hames, 2.Hika Elliot, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Dominic Bird, 5.Taleni Seu, 6.Tom Sanders, 7.Mitchell Karpik, 8.Sam Cane (co-c), 9.Jonathan Taumateine, 10.Aaron Cruden (co-c),11.Sam McNiol, 12.Stephen Donald, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Solomon Alaimalo, 15.Damian McKenzie

Reserves: 16.Brayden Mitchell, 17.Aidan Ross, 18.Sefo Kautai, 19.Mitchell Brown, 20.Liam Messam, 21 Alex Nankivell, 22.Shaun Stevenson, 23.James Lowe.

Sunwolves: 1.Keita Inagaki, 2.Takeshi Kizu, 3.Heiichiro Ito, 4.Shinya Makabe, 5.Sam Wykes, 6.Edward Quirk (captain), 7.Shunsuki Nunomaki, 8.Willie Britz, 9.Fumiaki Tanaka, 10.Hayden Cripps, 11.Yasutaka Sasakura, 12.Derek Carpenter, 13.William Tupou, 14.Teruya Goto, 15.Kotaro Matsushima.

Substitutes: 16. Yusuke Niwai, 17.Koki Yamamoto, 18.Takuma Asahara, 19.Uwe Helu, 20.Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 21.Yuki Yatomi, 22.Yu Tamura, 23.Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.