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PREVIEW: Chiefs v Brumbies

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Friday, July 14, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Chiefs v Brumbies, Saturday 15 July 2017, 5.15pm, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Chiefs come into the game on an end-of-season roll having drawn away with the Blues (16-16), beaten the Waratahs at home (46-31) and beaten the Hurricanes away (17-14). The Brumbies, before the June break, had lost to the Lions (6-13), beaten the Kings (19-10), beaten the Jaguares (39-15) and beaten the Rebels (32-3) but lost their first game back, to the Reds, (15-16). The teams have met 22 times over the years with the Brumbies winning 13 times and drawing once.

MOMENTUM CRUCIAL
It's a problem all coaches face at one time or another – to stick with the best team in a dead rubber game to maintain winning momentum or to rest some key players for the bigger games ahead? Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham hasn't been troubled in making his decision. He's made 12 changes from the team that lost to the Reds with only Scott Fardy, who will captain the side, Wharenui Hawera and Henry Speight retaining their starting places. That's a big call against a side who are keeping Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Anton Lienert-Brown out of the action, but for very good reasons. If there is one side who have consistently shown the ability to cover the gaps in their side it has been the Chiefs, and that will probably be the measure of coach Dave Rennie's contribution to the side in the future. Hawera will relish the chance to return to his home area with his adopted side.

CRUDEN'S FAREWELL
The game will be Aaron Cruden's last at FMG Stadium and will provide an opportunity for him to pass on the baton with a well-constructed win. He will be leaving a side well stocked for its future and will have a solid partner alongside him in the midfield with Charlie Ngatai back in harness. Alex Nankivell has been given a start at centre and it will be a chance for him to put his hand up for the future after limited opportunities during the year. The Chiefs will be a little light on locking experience up front but there will be no lack of mobility in the pack, something that will be of great value to the side who are taking on an opponent whose preferred method of attack during the season has been the rolling lineout maul.

THE TEAMS:

Chiefs: 1.Kane Hames, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Michael Allardice, 5.Mitchell Brown, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Lachlan Boshier, 8.Michael Leitch, 9.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 10.Aaron Cruden (captain), 11.James Lowe, 12.Charlie Ngatai, 13.Alex Nankivell, 14.Solomon Alaimalo, 15.Damian McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Liam Polwart, 17.Aidan Ross, 18.Atu Moli, 19.Tom Sanders, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Finlay Christie, 22.Stephen Donald, 23.Shaun Stevenson.

Brumbies: 1.Nic Mayhew, 2.Robbie Abel, 3.Leslie Leulua'iali'i-Makin, 4.Tom Staniforth, 5.Blake Enever, 6.Scott Fardy (captain), 7.Jarrad Butler, 8.Lolo Fakaosilea, 9.Tomas Cubelli, 10.Wharenui Hawera, 11.James Dargaville, 12.Andrew Smith, 13.Nigel Ah Wong, 14.Henry Speight, 15.Jordan Jackson-Hope.

Substitutes: 16.Josh Mann-Rea, 17.Scott Sio, 18.Ben Alexander, 19.Ben Hyne, 20.Tom Cusack, 21.Jordan Smiler, 22.Ryan Lonergan, 23.Tom Banks.