Injuries test Chiefs' depth

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes said the selectors had been keeping an eye on him during the Mitre 10 Cup. He had been playing in France but broke his leg and returned to New Zealand.

"He's a strong scrummager and played very well in the Mitre 10 Cup so to be able to bring people in with his experience as injury cover has turned out to be a blessing really because we have taken a fair few dings. He's quite a big boy and I'm quietly confident he can handle Super Rugby as a piece of cake from the set-piece side of things," he said.

Former Blues and Waratahs prop Angus Ta'avao would be with the side for a while as an injury replacement and he was playing and training very well, he said.

"We're very, very lucky to have men of that experience to be able to bring in with the situation we're in at the moment."

The absence of Dominic Bird to injury suffered last week had allowed Michael Allardice to step into the locking role. While such an injury tested the depth in the side, Allardice had plenty of experience and he was expected to fill the role aptly on Friday.

Injuries have hit the side hard but there were encouraging signs with prop Kane Hames who has suffered a mystery illness. He is expected to be close to consideration for selection in the future.

While Mitchell Brown was bracketed in the reserves the coaches are 'quietly confident' that it wasn't concussion. It was more of a vertigo issue which has been associated with a hearing issue he has and which they felt was the result of a blow on the side of the head in Christchurch.

The loss to the Crusaders was a setback but Barnes was confident the Chiefs could recover but they would have to be at their best because they respected the Blues.

While the score blew out in the last few minutes Barnes said they had been right in the game until the awarding of the 70th minute penalty try.

"With 10 minutes to go there were three points in it at 26-23 when they got that penalty try then we tried to play catch-up rugby and they got a couple of intercepts. It was a little bit flattering for them but if we had taken our chances before that it could have been a different result," he said.

In their review they were happy with some of the performances which was why there wasn't too much difference in the side chosen.

Barnes said they had been happy with their first half scrummaging performance against the Crusaders but after the break there had been a couple of scrums they were not happy with.

"We had a good session this morning [Thursday] and we're quite confident we'll be fine," he said.

The fact the Chiefs had built such an outstanding record of success against their old rivals had not been a factor in their preparation.

"We haven't even talked about it," he said. "We're just concentrating on one game at a time at the moment. The past is the past. We know we've got a job in front of us.

"They're [the Blues] are playing at another level this year and showing that they are quite good at set-piece so we've just prepared for this game, the past is irrelevant to us," he said.