Chiefs coach Ian Foster has predictably stuck with his successful starters with Sosene Anesi’s return to the bench the only change to their winning combination as they look to keep the roll going against the unbeaten Crusaders in Hamilton on Friday night.
Rugbyheaven reports that Anesi, who has had a lengthy spell on the sidelines with an ankle problem, comes into the reserves in the only change to the 22 who created history with their win against the Brumbies in Canberra in their last match.
In fact Foster has now been able to keep the same starting XV intact for a third successive match after the earlier win against the Highlanders.
Anesi’s versatility gave him the nod for a reserve’s role ahead of Viliame Waqaseduadua although he hasn’t been able to nudge the well-performed Lelia Masaga from his old right wing position.
“It was a logical change to go with Sosene instead of Vili as Sosene gives us cover at both fullback and wing,” said Foster.
The Chiefs come off the bye and are looking to pick up where they left off. Three wins on the trot have lifted their playoffs hopes considerably.
But the race is tight as they discovered last week. While they were idle with the bye they dropped from fourth to eighth.
A loss against the Crusaders would put a serious dent in their semifinal chances, especially with three matches in South Africa to finish their campaign.
But if the Chiefs can carry on with the sort of style they have displayed over the past month this match could be a cracker and they might fancy their chances of upsetting the Crusaders as they did in Christchurch last year.
“We’re looking forward to being back in action after a week away. Chiefs and Crusaders matches are always great occasions and the fact they come to us unbeaten this year just makes this game even more exciting,” said Foster.
With the Hamilton 400 V8 street race in the city over the weekend, the Chiefs are looking at a potential sellout for this glamour match.
Currently 19,000 tickets have been sold, meaning about 6000 tickets are still available with over half of these being standing room only.
CHIEFS: 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Simms Davison.
Reserves: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Ben May, 18 Jay Williams, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Dwayne Sweeney, 22 Soseni Anesi.