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McKenzie Returns as Chiefs Face Brumbies in Melbourne

McKenzie Returns as Chiefs Face Brumbies in Melbourne

All BlacksFebruary 29, 2024

Early-season pressure is maintained for the Chiefs in DHL Super Rugby Pacific when they face arguably Australia's best side, the Brumbies, on Sunday in Melbourne.

Coming off their tight opener against the Crusaders, the Chiefs are heading to Melbourne aware of some issues the Crusaders exposed in Hamilton last weekend. At the same time, coach Clayton McMillan has acknowledged the need to give starting XV contenders an opportunity in Australia.

The Chiefs have first five-eighths Damian McKenzie back, if a bit tender from his rib injury, while Quinn Tupaea faces a two-week stand down, and Rameka Pohipi will play.

McMillan said, "Hopefully, it's seamless there. He's been in the squad for three or four years and he's no stranger to the environment...he was probably unlucky not to be involved last week and he's probably a little bit of a victim of some of our outside backs not having played a lot of minutes."

The side to play the Brumbies was one where they wanted to give players their chance to claim starting opportunities.

"Those we brought into the starting lineup have had positive moments through the pre-season, so they are rewarded this week.

"That's the beauty of our squad; there are capable people who can step into positions when the opportunity presents itself. If you look at the squad's balance, though, it is relatively unchanged, with a lot of cohesion.

"We know what we are coming up against this weekend with the Brumbies, one of the best teams in the competition. They have a clear understanding of where their strengths lie and play to them.

"They're hard to contain when they get their game going. We expect contestable kicks, and they have some speed on the edges.

''We have to be good enough to impose our strengths against them to give them a little bit more to think about what we have."

The first half against the Crusaders showed the level the Chiefs could reach, but they hadn't maintained that level until it mattered.

"But that was a positive too. We talked about that post-game. While we lost our way a little bit, when we needed to find something, we were able to do that and create pressure. They gave away some penalties, we kicked a couple of goals, and it was the difference in the end.

"In many ways, it was a good outcome for us. We got the four points, which is not always easy against the Crusaders. We know other teams will find it hard to get that against them.

"We got exposed in a few areas and there're things we can tidy up."

Loose forward Kaylum Boshier said the concept of having a round in one city involving all teams was something the players enjoyed.

Securing the openside flanker's jersey was not about trying to play in the shape of the previous incumbent, Sam Cane.

"I bring my game to this team. I'm not going to try to be Sam or anyone else. I just want to be myself out there."

Boshier is also delighted to be able to share Bradley Slater's 50th game for the side.

"He's a good made of mine. He's always a guy who puts his hand up, no matter what."

McMillan said, "He's playing some of his best rugby. He's been on the team for a number of years and hasn't always had it easy. There's a lot of internal competition here, but he turns up every day, and he wants to get better.

"He's been an integral part of the Taranaki side and he's carried on his form from that campaign to here."

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