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Injury relief in sight for Chiefs

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Monday, March 26, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Back from a 61-10 triumph over the Sunwolves in Tokyo, head coach Colin Cooper said the game had been very physical, much more physical than the score suggested, and he was pleased with the outcome. 

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But just as satisfying was the lack of injuries after the game.

"It's a bonus now when we don't have an injury, it's like a bonus point," he said.

In the latest update on injuries he said Charlie Ngatai may be available for the weekend, or next week, but they were going to assess his progress during the week.

Alex Nankiville, who had an appendix issue, was another who was close to returning. Props Kane Hames and Mitch Graham were unlikely to be available in the next two weeks.

"Our lock situation is still a concern at the moment with Dom [Dominic Bird], Mitch Brown [still out]," Cooper said. Bird will have an operation and will miss the remainder of the season

They were looking at replacements over the next week.

But looking to the Highlanders, he said all the New Zealand teams were playing expansively and, defensively, the Highlanders were a great kicking team.

"So we have to be aware of the attack they're going to bring so we'll probably spend a bit more time defensively on what they will be bringing," he said.
He was expecting a physical game from them and high bombs with a lot of their game based around halfback Aaron Smith and fullback Ben Smith and the Chiefs would have to be ready for that.

"We have to defensively scan really well and make sure of our spacing and not get crowded like we did against the Bulls. We got loaded up on one side and exposed on the open so they will expose us if we are not ready for that," Cooper said.

There had been a lot of things the Chiefs had tried against the Sunwolves to assess their future use while the competition among players had been obvious as substitutions were made during the game.

There would be no excuses for the Chiefs who were high on confidence, on a three-game winning run and they were playing at home. There was also the fact that skipper Sam Cane would be playing his 100th game for the Chiefs.

"I'm looking forward to the week and how we build for this game which will be a huge game for us," he said.

In relation to Cane, Cooper said one of things that impressed him was that what he talked he walked.

"He's physical, and when he wants physicality he brings physicality. When you get a leader demanding that others follow and he's respected hugely by the group and I'm really enjoying working with him. We're connecting," he said.