Published: 6:35PM Tuesday February 21, 2012 Source: ONE Sport
Carl Hoeft – Source: ONE Sport
The Chiefs are tapping into the knowledge of a former All Black powerhouse to get their faltering set-piece on the front foot this season.
Carl Hoeft, who represented the All Blacks in 30 Tests between 1998 and 2003, has returned from playing in France for Stade Toulousain to take up a role with the Waikato Rugby Union.
The 37-year-old is currently helping the Chiefs’ front-rowers on a trial-basis ahead of their opening Super Rugby match of the season against the Highlanders at Waikato Stadium on Saturday.
Last season the set-piece was an area the Chiefs really struggled in but Hoeft thinks they have the potential to turn that around this season.
“They have got the tools and the players to really go forward this year and there is a lot of potential there,” Hoeft told ONE News.
Ben Afeaki and Toby Smith have the inside running to start ahead of Tongan powerhouse Sona Taumalolo in the prop positions.
While Samoan captain Mahonri Schwalger is almost certain to start at hooker against his former franchise with Hika Elliot out with injury.
Whoever is selected, they face an almighty task against a formidable Highlanders front-row that will include All Black Andrew Hore and the massive Jamie Mackintosh.
Plotting the downfall of the Highlanders, a franchise he represented 98 times, is an irony not lost on Hoeft but he says it is the reality of the professional era.
“Well yeah I’m living here. I’ve got fond memories of my time in Otago but I’ve just been asked to help out and that’s basically what I’m doing,” he said.
And if he can get their set-piece to deliver front foot ball, the firepower in the Chiefs’ backs is undoubted.
While the selection of halfback remains a toss-up between Brendon Leonard and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, the 10-12-13 axis picks itself with new recruits Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams forming a dangerous combination with centre Richard Kahui.
Another former Highlander, Robbie Robinson, is set to be named at fullback after impressing there at pre-season with the versatile Tim Nanai Williams and the ever dangerous Lelia Masaga forming the back-three.
Liam Messam appears to be the likely number 8 candidate after Alex Bradley was ruled out with injury while it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the experienced duo of Tanerau Latimer and Scott Waldrom start on the flanks.
But the starting XV, which will be named on Thursday, is far from clear-cut according to coach Dave Rennie.
He said four positions remain wide open which means a big push at training over the coming days could prove all the difference.