Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs boast an interesting looking squad. On paper, the Chiefs shouldn’t have won the Super Rugby title in 2012 and 2013, but the coaching staff including Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith seem to have a knack of getting the best out of players who couldn’t make other teams, some solid performers who know their role well and a sprinkling of stars.
I am excited by the Chiefs recruits and I am hoping that players like Robbie Fruean, Matthew Symosn and Jamie Mackintosh thrive under quality coaching. The Chiefs have also acquired exciting Tom Marshall, Liam Squires and James Lowe from the all conquering Tasman Makos, while young talent like Ihaia West and Marty McKenzie are in the their wider training squad (as injury cover) and hopefully they will be given an opportunity to strut their stuff.
The Chiefs have also gone for some other experienced players in former All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina and veteran lock and loose forward Kane Thompson who will provide experience and consistent performances if given the opportunity. The have other reliable players like Mahonri Schwalger, Andrew Horrell, Nick Crosswell, Tanerau Latimer and Asaeli Tikoirotuma who aren’t flashy, but make their tackles and usually don’t make mistakes.
That is what I like about the Chiefs! Everyone knows their role and they get the best out of some players who other teams would consider to be liabilities. Just look at the way Robbie Robinson went from Highlanders reject to scoring the Super Rugby 2013 clinching try for the Chiefs. Charlie Ngatai and Gareth Anscombe are other players who has flourished at the Chiefs.
As a Highlanders fanatic, I am jealous of the Chiefs. Their squad doesn’t feature many local players from Waikato and a sprinkling of Counties Manukau and Bay of Plenty players, but unlike the Highlanders, these players from outside the region seem to fit in and gel as a team. On the down side, Waikato and Bay of Plenty were disappointing in the ITM Cup.
The Chiefs will need some luck to win three Super Rugby crowns in a row with plenty resting on their All Blacks like Aaron Cruden, Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam and Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Unfortunately the Chiefs have some injury concerns with Tom Marshall, Andrew Horrell, Gareth Anscombe and Robbbie Fruean struggling. It is also difficult to know what role coach Dave Rennie sees for veterans like Mils Muliaina, Mo Schwalger and Kane Thompson. Should these guys be starting ahead of more promising players?
My Chiefs strongest possible Super Rugby 2014 Team
15 Mils Muliaina
14 James Lowe
13 Tim Nanai-Williams
12 Bundee Aki
11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma
10 Aaron Cruden
9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow
8 Liam Squires
7 Sam Cane
6 Liam Messam
5 Brodie Retallick
4 Ross Filipo
3 Ben Afeaki
2 Hika Elliot
1 Jamie Mackintosh
16 Rhys Marshall
17 Ben Tameifuna
18 Nick Crosswell
19 Tanerau Latimer
20 Augustine Pulu
21 Ihaia West
22 Robbie Fruean
Marshall and Anscombe are injured
If the Chiefs were at full strength then I would start with Tom Marshall on the right wing and Gareth Anscombe at fullback.
Another option is to split up the talented Counties team of Aki and Nanai-Williams in midfield and to start Robbie Fruean at centre and move the versatile Tim Nanai- Williams to fullback or wing.
Robbie Fruean should make a return via the bench to give him time to adjust.
What do you think of my Chiefs 2014 team? Can this Chiefs team win another Super Rugby title?