The Chiefs take on the Brumbies in Hamilton on Saturday in what should be a thrilling trans-Tasman encounter between two of the tournament’s in-form sides.
Although the Brumbies are amongst the also-rans on the overall table, they head into this fixture on a high after beating the Hurricanes 24-12 in Canberra last week but the Chiefs are also full of confidence after securing an impressive 45-22 win over the Highlanders in Suva.
Despite that win over the Hurricanes, the Brumbies will be overwhelming underdogs as they have lost their last three matches against the Chiefs with their last victory registered in 2014.
But the Brumbies will fancy their chances of causing an upset as they are currently on a three-match winning run as they also claimed victories against the Bulls in Pretoria and Sunwolves in Canberra prior to that triumph on home turf against the Hurricanes. The last time they have won more than four matches was a four-game streak from May to July 2016.
However, the Chiefs have won their last three games on the bounce against the Brumbies which is their longest ever winning streak against the men from Canberra.
This game is highly significant, with the Chiefs vying for a spot in the play-offs. It is their first game back at home after the break for the June Tests and they will be looking to carry on the tremendous form that saw them run rampant in Suva against the Highlanders.
Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper hopes his side can bring last weekend’s confidence into their clash with the Brumbies.
“We are hoping to build the confidence and excitement from the Highlanders game and take that into the Brumbies game this weekend,” he said.
“Both teams are great attacking teams, playing with a lot of confidence. It’ll be a great spectacle and our home fans can give us the edge we need.”
Their Canberra based opposition played valiantly last weekend to see off the Hurricanes. Cooper knows they’ll be a real threat and highlighted Wallabies loose forward David Pocock as a potential threat.
“The Brumbies are coming here with confidence after beating the Hurricanes,” he added.
“They have an outstanding loose forward in Pocock who will be a real threat. They have a great lineout and are always a threat on attack.”
The last time the teams met: These sides faced off in a Round 17 clash at the same venue last year and it was the Chiefs who were victorious as they beat the Brumbies 28-10. Damian McKenzie led the way for the home side with an 18-point haul courtesy of a try, three penalties and conversions and the Chiefs’ other points came via tries from Solomon Alaimalo and Michael Leitch. For the Brumbies, Nigel Ah Wong scored a try and Wharenui Hawera kicked a penalty and a conversion.
Team news: Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper has made a couple of changes to his starting line-up for this fixture.
There’s only one tweak to the pack from the team that beat the Highlanders in Suva last weekend, with All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris returning to the fold after the birth of his first child.
In the backline, Anton Lienert-Brown is rested as part of his All Black commitments with Sean Wainui moving to his natural position of centre. Exciting winger Shaun Stevenson gets the chance to impress with a start on the wing.
Continuity is key with Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie again linking up in the nine and ten jerseys and Solomon Alaimalo continues at full-back, after a highly impressive showing against the Highlanders last weekend.
Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar has made two changes from the side that defeated the Hurricanes in Canberra last weekend with prop Nic Mayhew coming into the starting team to replace the injured Scott Sio while Allan Alaalatoa is restored to the side.
Mayhew played 65 minutes against the ‘Canes after replacing Sio, helping the Brumbies to maintain possession and remain competitive at the set-piece whilst adding physicality with his ball-carrying in the loose.
Alaalatoa has recovered from a knock sustained whilst on Wallabies duty during the June Test series against Ireland and will pack down in the front-row alongside Mayhew and last week’s man of the match, the livewire Folau Fainga’a.
Blake Enever and Rory Arnold, the latter of whom crossed for a try against the Hurricanes, continue at lock with David Pocock, Tom Cusack and Isi Naisarani rounding out an imposing pack that have been in great form in recent weeks.
There’s a settled look behind the scrum where Joe Powell and Christian Lealiifano fill the playmakers slots, joined alongside by Kyle Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani in midfield. The increasingly effective back three includes Henry Speight, Andrew Muirhead, who has three tries from his last three matches and Tom Banks.
McKellar makes two changes to the replacements bench with Alexander reverting to a finishers role and Lachlan McCaffrey sufficiently recovered from an injured back to be recalled in place of young Darcy Swain who signed a new contract with the club earlier this week.
2017: Chiefs won 28-10 in Hamilton
2016: Chiefs won 48-23 in Canberra
2015: Chiefs won 19-17 in Hamilton
2014: Brumbies won 32-30 in Canberra
2014: Brumbies won 41-23 in Canberra
2013: Chiefs won 27-22 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 29-22 in Hamilton
2011: Brumbies won 28-20 in Canberra
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Sean Wainui, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Shaun Stevenson, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Johnny Faauli
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Andrew Muirhead, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock, 6 Tom Cusack, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Nic Mayhew
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Lausii Taliauli
Date: Saturday, July 7
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 17:15 local (07:15 BST, 06:15 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson, Angus Mabey
TMO: Shane McDermott