The Chiefs will be aiming for a bonus-point win over the Reds in Brisbane on Friday to stay top of the New Zealand conference. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
After 15 rounds, there are just three log points separating the Chiefs (46), Crusaders (45), Hurricanes (44) and Highlanders (43) in the competition's most competitive conference.
With the Chiefs set to play the Highlanders in Dunedin next weekend, coach Dave Rennie is taking no chances for this match against the Reds.
Aaron Cruden, who suffered a neck injury in the All Blacks' second Test against Wales in June, returns to the starting lineup. The flyhalf has executed 15 try assists in 2016 (the most in the competition), scored five tries (joint fifth) and made 18 clean breaks (joint sixth). Cruden will be up against rookie Duncan Paia'aua, who will start at No 10 for the Reds after an injury to Jake McIntyre.
Rennie has made four other personnel changes and one positional switch. Tawera Kerr-Barlow is the preferred scrumhalf, with Brad Weber dropping to the bench. In the pack, tighthead prop Atu Moli and hooker Nathan Harris take over from Hiroshi Yamashita and Hika Elliot respectively. The rested Brodie Retallick is replaced by Lachlan Boshiers, who starts at openside flank with Taleni Seu moving to lock.
The Reds have made two changes, with Paia'aua and lock Kane Douglas coming into the starting lineup.
The Chiefs beat the Reds 24-3 in Brisbane last year and a similar result on Friday would not come as a surprise.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 10, Chiefs 9
In Brisbane: Reds 5, Chiefs 4
STATS AND FACTS
– The Reds lost the last meeting between these sides, in round 17 last season; however, they won each of the four fixtures between the two before that.
– The Chiefs have won three of the last four meetings between the sides in Queensland, this after winning just once in five attempts away to the Reds in Super Rugby before that.
– The Reds have won their last three at home, but have not won four consecutive home matches in a single season since their last four regular season home games in 2012.
– The Chiefs have scored 23 more tries than they’ve conceded this year, the largest positive disparity of any team in the competition and 40 higher than the Reds' disparity (-17).
– The Reds back rower Hendrik Tui has stolen five lineouts so far this season, the fifth most of any player and more than any other Australian-based player.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Reds||Jake McIntyre (85)||Samu Kerevi (4)||Samu Kerevi (861)||Liam Gill (95)|
|Chiefs||Damian McKenzie (140)||Damian McKenzie (7)||Damian McKenzie (1,052)||Sam Cane (155)|
Reds – 15 Jack Tuttle, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Duncan Paia’aua, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Matt Mafi, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Campbell Magnay.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Sam Cane, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Taleni Seu, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Mitchell Brown, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Sam McNicol.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images