The Chiefs will return home to FMG Stadium Waikato to take on the Blues in their first home game of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season on Saturday with Chiefs Head Coach Warren Gatland opting to reinstate Aaron Cruden in the starting XV to face an in-form Blues team.
Lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi will move from the bench into the starting fifteen in jersey number five to combine with last week’s debutant Tupou Vaa’i, in the only changes to the Chiefs forward pack with Sam Cane still sidelined with an injury.
All Blacks Halfback Brad Weber will again captain the side in the absence of Cane. Weber will combine with experienced first five-eighth Aaron Cruden at ten in the only change from last week’s starting backline, with Bay of Plenty’s Kaleb Trask providing cover on the bench.
The Chiefs reinforcements of prop Reuben O’Neill, loose forward veteran Adam Thomson, rookie Lisati Milo-Harris and electrifying back Solomon Alaimalo will complete an exciting twenty-three.
Gatland said the team were eager to return to FMG Stadium Waikato and deliver a much improved performance for their fans.
“Last week against the Highlanders we weren’t clinical enough and they capitalised on those opportunities we gave them. This week we need to be sharper and deliver a more dominant performance.
“The Blues have some great playmakers and will be a dangerous team. They performed well last week against the Hurricanes and will be hoping to back it up again.
“The guys are excited to run out to the field in front of what is expected to be a near capacity crowd. It is now up to us to deliver for them and show our thanks for their support,” said Gatland.
Gatland finished congratulating Stevenson on his achievement.
“Shaun is a talented player, who has great attacking ability. He has already demonstrated that earlier this year on a number of occasions and we hope this weekend he can celebrate in a similar fashion.”
1. Aidan Ross (32)
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (29)
3. Nepo Laulala (34)
4. Tupou Vaa’I (1)
5. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (7)
6. Luke Jacobson (23)
7. Lachlan Boshier (50)
8. Pita Gus Sowakula (21)
9. Brad Weber (78) ©
10. Aaron Cruden (95)
11. Sean Wainui (31)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (75)
13. Quinn Tupaea (5)
14. Shaun Stevenson (49)
15. Damian McKenzie (77)
16. Bradley Slater (8)
17. Reuben O’Neill (4)
18. Ross Geldenhuys (6)
19. Adam Thomson (1)
20. Dylan Nel (2)
21. Lisati Milo-Harris (2)
22. Kaleb Trask (5)
23. Solomon Alaimalo (43)
Unavailable for selection:
Angus Ta’avao (quad), Mitchell Karpik (back strain), Sam Cane (lower back strain), Mitchell Brown (neck).
Season ending: Atu Moli (hips), Laghlan McWhannell (knee), Michael Allardice (shoulder), Nathan Harris (shoulder), Sam McNicol (ankle).