Cavalry returns at the right time for the Chiefs
Enjoying the benefits of returning squad members has eased the short turnaround for the Chiefs as they prepare to maintain their unbeaten run in DHL Super Rugby Pacific against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
Heading the list is second five-eighths Anton Lienert-Brown, who limped out of the season's opening game but who will return to bolster the midfield, with Alex Nankivell also available to come off the bench.
Coach Clayton McMillan said Lienert-Brown was a warrior for the side and was an example of the attitude he demonstrated while working through his recovery.
Lienert-Brown said while being injured at the start of the campaign was frustrating, it was part of the uncontrollables in playing rugby. He loved playing rugby, enjoyed club rugby last weekend, and did everything he could to be available again.
It had been impressive to watch the side put an unbroken run together.
"The strength of the squad is the strength of this team and I'm the lucky one who gets to put on the 12 jersey this weekend and I just want to do my job."
It also allows him to tick off 100 games for the side, something with his injuries that had been a long time coming since moving north from Christchurch when he was 17, at the suggestion of former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith, who was assisting coach Dave Rennie with the Chiefs.
Lienert-Brown said it was his high school coach who advised him to do whatever Smith said, and when Smith talked to him and his parents about his move, he had been starstruck and couldn't recall much of what was said.
"Having that conversation with my teacher really won me over and how he [Smith] has looked after me, and what he has done for me, I truly appreciate."
Smith told him he thought he had talent and was a good footballer.
"I've never been the most talented bloke so for him to instill that belief in me was pretty special."
Lienert-Brown made his debut at 18 at Loftus Versfeld against the Bulls and recalled how nervous and excited he was.
"It didn't go to plan, but I look back 10 years on and I learnt a lot from that."
He shared several coincidences with his prop brother Daniel. They debuted on the same day in Super Rugby, Anton for the Chiefs and Daniel for the Crusaders, for whom he played two games in 2014 before switching to the Highlanders. Anton was on hand at Daniel's 100th Super Rugby game, and Daniel will be in Dunedin for his brother's century of games.
The Highlanders host the Chiefs on Friday 5 May, 7.05pm, at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Get your tickets HERE.