Sharks wary of midfield challenges going into Chiefs clash

2011-03-17 00:00

THE Sharks’ midfield defence has suddenly become an area of concern for Sharks coach John Plumtree and the return of All Black centre Richard Kahui to the Chiefs’ line-up for tomorrow’s Super Rugby outing in Hamilton has compounded his problem.

Kahui, capped 11 times for the All Blacks, will make his first appearance in six months for the Chiefs following a shoulder injury and he takes over from Dwayne Sweeney at outside centre.

In the only other change to the team unluckily beaten by the Hurricanes last week, hooker Hika Elliot is preferred to Aled de Malmanche.

The 25-year-old Kahui, a dynamic runner and excellent defender, will be opposite Stefan Terblanche, who had his problems defensively against the Rebels — and Stirling Mortlock — in Melbourne last Friday.

Kahui will form a potent midfield partnership with All Black Test veteran Tana Umaga, and the Sharks’ Terblanche and Meyer Bosman face a testing evening in Hamilton.

Chiefs’ coach Ian Foster welcomed Kahui’s return after the centre had impressed in two games for the Chiefs’ second-stringers.

“He’s an important part of our group,” he said. “To get a bit of that infectious attitude back after a couple of losses is good for us.”

Kahui told reporters he was delighted to be back.

“I can’t wait to get out there and take my chance.

“The midfield have been playing well so I don’t want to let the standards drop.

“I feel like I’m ready to get out and play some real rugby.”

The Chiefs have lost three times on the road — to the Brumbies, Highlanders and Hurricanes — but easily thumped the Rebels in Hamilton.

Foster said he was looking to individuals to improve their skills after they let slip a number of scoring chances against the Hurricanes.

“We need to be more clinical and individuals need to take more responsibility for their skills,” Foster said. “We’re looking to demonstrate this improvement at Waikato Stadium on Friday night.”

Foster has lost his captain and All Black fullback Mils Muliaina to injury while Ben Afeaki, Hayden Triggs, Colin Bourke and Toby Smith were others not considered because of fitness concerns.

Foster is also worried about the leg injury to flyhalf Stephen Donald, another All Black, who has an inflamed knee joint and was yesterday regarded as only a “50-50” prospect.

Meanwhile, John Plumtree, the Sharks’ Kiwi-born coach, welcomed the move of next week’s game against the Crusaders to London to help the earthquake-stricken Christchurch.

The Sharks headed to Hamilton from their Auckland base yesterday while Plumtree visited his parents in Taranaki.

“There were pros and cons for us about the change of venue, but ultimately the players were keen to do something for the Christchurch people,” Plumtree said.

Plumtree said an enormous amount of travelling would be involved though the Sharks are to break their trip by stopping off in Durban for three days instead of flying direct from Auckland to London.

The Sharks are to leave New Zealand on Saturday, arriving in Durban on Sunday before flying to Twickenham on Thursday

“It’s a big ask for the boys, but we’re committed to it and we’ve just got to get on with it.”

Plumtree said what had happened in Christchurch was bigger than a lot of other things, including rugby.

“The players knew what it meant to me as a New Zealander and there are many players in the team who have got a real affinity with the New Zealand people. It made the decision easier and was well supported by the senior players.”

As well as travelling to London via South Africa to break their trip, Plumtree said it had been important they could secure early flights home from London after the March 27 match.

“It was important to us to travel back on the Sunday night so we could get our preparations for the Stormers game [on April 2].” — Sports Reporter.


Chiefs team:

15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Scott Waldrom, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Ben May.

Replacements 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Romana Graham, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Taniela Moa, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.

Kick-off: 0835 (SA time).

Referee: Garrat Williamson (NZ).

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