Flank Liam Messam will lead the Chiefs in their First Round Super 14 match against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, following the withdrawal of a second caprain.
First-choice captain Mils Muliaina is on sabbatical and stayed behind in New Zealand, while stand-in Sione Lauaki has been ruled out of the first Chiefs match due to an abscess on his arm.
The 25-year old Messam, who was awarded All Black colours last year and played in three Tests, is no stranger to the role of captain.
Chiefs coach Ian Foster said: “Sione’s infected arm had to be drained yesterday [Wednesday]. While he is feeling better now, it is not going to be ready for the weekend’s game.”
Muliaina, like Crusaders captain Richie McCaw, is on New Zealand RFU contractual sabbatical, and will miss the first three weeks of the Super 14.
Messam will play at No.6, supported by Colin Bourke at No.8 and Tanerau Latimer at openside flank. Latimer, a current All Black and experienced Chiefs campaigner, will be playing his 100th first class game.
In the backs Foster has opted for the midfield combination of Jackson Willison at inside centre with Richard Kahui at outside centre. Dwayne Sweeney gets a start on the right wing, Fijian speedster Sitiveni Sivivatu on the left wing and Mike Delany at fullback.
The experienced Stephen Donald and Brendon Leonard will direct operations from flyhalf and scrumhalf.
Foster said Callum Bruce, who strained his knee in last week’s pre-season match, is progressing well but is not included in the Chiefs team this week.
“We have other fit players available so we’ve decided to give him another week to fully recover.”
Foster added: “The team has enjoyed its week in Durban after getting over the travel and acclimatising to the conditions. We understand some of the difficulties of the hot, humid conditions but are now just keen to get onto the field.”
Chiefs: 15 Mike Delany, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 James McGougan, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Jarrad Hoeata, 21 Junior Poluleuligaga, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams.
Article courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet