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Chiefs treading warily ahead of the Blues

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Thursday, April 5, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Assistant coach Tabai Matson needed to look only as far back as their drawn game last year when he felt the Blues could have ended their unsuccessful run against their neighbours.

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"So for us there is absolutely no complacency. We had an unbelievable training today driven by the understanding there is a beast about two hours north of us that have got their backs against the wall, they've got quality players and they have nothing to lose and are probably really excited to come down here and knock us off our perch.

"We don't take anything lightly, especially against these guys," he said.

Matson said the Chiefs had benefited last week from having the firepower that loose forward Liam Messam and the likes of fullback Charlie Ngatai brought off the bench and they had gone with that again, but Messam was also battling a little after a finger dislocation.

"In the local derbies the last 10 minutes, we think, are really critical and it's really important to have Charlie finishing the game," he said, adding that some time in the next few weeks he would have the chance to start again.
Halfback Brad Weber has suffered a wrist injury which will keep him out for a week or two and provide Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi with some starting chances which would be a great opportunity for him.

" We have the utmost faith in him [Tahuriorangi] and really excited to see what he can do. He's got a critical path defensively and also driving the game against Blues with their backs to the wall," he said.

Matson reflected on the Chiefs' injury situation and said in earlier years they worked on a 15 percent attrition rate but more recently it was about 25 percent. And in his time with the Chiefs it was his first experience of several players having reconstructions or out for the season so it definitely wasn't a normal year.

The ability of the Chiefs through the years to put the injuries aside while remaining competitive had been maintained under first year coach of the side Colin Cooper. His mantra was one of keeping calm and carrying on which blended well with an experienced and hard-nosed leadership group, Matson said.

"There's still really high expectations at this club, they still want to make sure that every time they go out they are going to win the game. I think that definitely helps and also there's a group of young players who have stepped into the breach and done a really good job," he said.

At the same time, it had to be said they had squeaked through some tight games this year and they were keeping their fingers crossed that that continued, he said.