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    Chiefs without 20 players for Sharks clash

    2018-05-15 07:06

    Cape Town - It's been a looming fixture on the calendar for some time, and now the full extent of the damage is about to be realised, for the Chiefs' Super Rugby match against the Sharks on Saturday.

    Kick-off is at 15:05.

    According to the Stuff website, the tourists are stripped of all their All Blacks for the fixture in Durban due to a clash with a national camp, and when injuries are also taken into account it means the Chiefs are going to be without a total of 20 players, from their originally contracted list of 38.

    Each of the Kiwi Super Rugby team coaches are under instruction to rest their All Blacks from two games before next month's Test series against France, and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has also felt it imperative to assemble his national representatives - in North Island and South Island groups - to give them added preparation.

    The Chiefs sit fourth in the New Zealand Conference, one point back from the Highlanders, 10 off the Hurricanes and 11 behind the Crusaders (who have played an extra game), and the importance of home advantage come the playoffs cannot be overstated.

    Coach Colin Cooper would have every right to feel aggrieved, though he was never going to rock the boat - first year in his new gig, of course - and has maintained throughout it was just part of the bigger picture and it was up to him and his staff to plan accordingly.

    What he would have been hoping for, though, is that come this point, even without his All Blacks he could rely on a fair chunk of experience and talent. However, the injury toll which hammered the Chiefs early in the season has got up again, with 16 currently sidelined, before the pulling of internationals Nathan Harris, Brodie Retallick, Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown on top of that.

    This week loose forward Mitch Jacobson and backline utility Luteru Laulala have been flown over, in a group of 27 which already includes another potential Super Rugby debutant in flank Matt Matich, and a total of 11 players who didn't even have a contract at season's start.

    They may have battled admirably through their injury woes so far, and pulled off an important, gritty win against the Stormers in Cape Town last week, which Cooper felt would embed plenty of self belief.

    While in typical SA fashion the Sharks are bound to claim underdog status and talk up the weakened Chiefs squad, if their New Zealand opponents are to overcome the odds, it would surely go down as one of the best wins in the club's history.

    Leading SA bookmakers BET.co.za have installed the Sharks as 67/100 favourites, while the Chiefs can be backed at 5/4. The draw is on offer at 22/1.

    Who the Chiefs are missing v Sharks:

    Aidan Ross (ankle)
    Kane Hames (concussion/ABs camp)
    Mitchell Graham (leg)
    Nathan Harris (ABs camp)
    Atu Moli (quad hematoma/ABs camp)
    Nepo Laulala (arm/ABs camp)
    Brodie Retallick (ABs camp)
    Fin Hoeata (shoulder)
    Dominic Bird (shoulder)
    Mitchell Brown (knee)
    Lachlan Boshier (appendicitis)
    Sam Cane (abdominal/ABs camp)
    Mitchell Karpik (concussion)
    Taleni Seu (back)
    Damian McKenzie (ABs camp)
    Tiaan Falcon (hand)
    Anton Lienert-Brown (ABs camp)
    Regan Verney (groin)
    Sam McNicol (concussion)
    Tim Nanai-Williams (shoulder)

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    Saturday, 26 May 2018
    • Chiefs v Waratahs, FMG Stadium Waikato 09:35
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