Super Rugby

Ngatai's ankle no good for Stormers clash

Charlie Ngatai (Gallo Images)
Charlie Ngatai (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The Chiefs will be without midfielder Charlie Ngatai for their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.

Kick-off is at 17:00.

According to the Stuff website, an ankle injury suffered in the 28-10 final-round win over the Brumbies in Hamilton last Saturday night kept the 26-year-old from travelling with the team, coach Dave Rennie revealed from South Africa on Monday.

Ngatai went down early in the match, and while he played on, he was then pulled at half-time as a precaution, but in the end wasn't taken on the long haul, with Rennie seeing it as too much of a gamble.

"His ankle just wasn't good enough," Rennie said. We're not in a position to take a risk, you're only allowed to bring 25 guys away, so it gives us a couple of spare guys but we needed to make sure that if we got any illness or injury late in the week, that we had suitable cover."

With Alex Nankivell - who started at centre last weekend - not selected in the travelling party, the midfield will feature either Stephen Donald or Tim Nanai-Williams - having arrived a day later than his team-mates following his commitments with Samoa - partnering Anton Lienert-Brown, with Solomon Alaimalo providing cover from the wing.

Dominic Bird (concussion) and Liam Messam (hamstring) weren't risked last weekend, but are good to go, while the All Blacks trio of Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Lienert-Brown will be injected after a week off following a heavy workload in the test series against the British and Irish Lions.

Rennie said it was quite noticeable that that trio were fizzing with energy during what duties they have undertaken so far.

With a similar climate to back home there hasn't been any challenges in terms of getting acclimatised to the weather, but it's just overcoming the travel factor which is imperative and has the Chiefs easing into their week.

"We haven't done an enormous amount, to be honest," Rennie said. "We left at 02:00 (Sunday, NZ time) and most guys probably only had an hour's sleep prior to that and of course a big day of travel, and we arrived here around midnight Sunday night, local time.

The fact the Chiefs had to travel the 11 765km to the Cape for this game is not so much the worry in terms of their title chances - they go into the fixture as favourites - it's more the fact that if they make the semi-finals it's guaranteed to be all the way back in New Zealand - either against the Crusaders in Christchurch, or against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

It mirrors the task they faced last year, when they went over and spanked the Stormers 60-21, before coming up well short against the eventual title-winning Hurricanes 25-9 in Wellington.

Rennie noted that was somewhat of an anomaly - against what was a high quality side - and that his team had generally fronted well on return from South Africa, so they were just embracing the excitement that the challenge presents.

Of course, it'll be first things first anyway, against what is a quite improved Stormers side this year, who beat the Chiefs 34-26 in Cape Town in Round 7, in what was one of the season's highest quality games.

"Maybe last year they were surprised with the intensity of the game," Rennie said.

"And they hadn't played a New Zealand side all year. This year they've played five, and they were certainly far better prepared, a hell of a lot fitter, and fronted big time against us. So we're pretty sure what we're going to face, certainly they'll be physical and they'll back themselves."

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