The Chiefs have dropped All Blacks Brendon Leonard, Richard Kahui and Sione Lauaki for Friday night’s clash with the Cheetahs in Hamilton.
Rugbyheaven NZ reports that coach Ian Foster has reacted seriously to last week’s season-ending defeat to the Stormers.
The Chiefs have lost two All Blacks for the rest of the season as a result of that defeat – Lelia Masaga with a knee injury and Mike Delany with a shoulder problem requiring surgery.
But Foster has decided there is a need for further changes in a major shakeup of his side.
Junior Poluleuligaga will start at halfback ahead of Leonard.
Stephen Donald returns to first five-eighths to cover Delany’s absence with Callum Bruce at 12 and Jackson Willison taking over at centre from Kahui who has been struggling for form.
A fit-again Sitiveni Sivivatu returns to the left wing after recovering from a knee strain.
Up front Colin Bourke regains the No 8 jersey at the expense of Lauaki while prop Nathan White returns to a starting spot in the front row.
The reserves include lock Kevin O’Neill, who has recovered from an Achilles injury incurred in round one of the competition and prop James McGougan who makes a belated return from a back injury.
Leonard, Laukai and Kahui are all on the bench.
Foster said the Chiefs are focussed and determined to bounce back strongly after being upstaged buy the Bulls and Stormers.
”We have come off two very tough, physical games and now face our third South African team in a row. We believe we are still a very good team, in spite of the horrendous injury list this season,” Foster said.
”We are absolutely determined to show our character on the park this Friday night.”
CHIEFS: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Reserves: 16 Vern Kamo, 17 James McGougan, 18 Kevin O’Neill, 19 Sione Lauaki 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Richard Kahui, 22 Jason Hona.