Preview: Chiefs v Reds
Thursday, April 11, 2013 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
MISSING IN ACTION:
The Chiefs have been largely unaffected by injury, though halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow's injured jaw will see him sidelined for a while to come. Richard Kahui will be looking for another strong game at centre having come off two impressive matches for the hosts so far this season.
The Queensland Reds will be thankful for a successful return to rugby for winger Rod Davies in 2013. The winger recovered from a hamstring injury and was back to his best in the 34-33 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin in Round 8. Fellow winger Chris Feauai-Sautia has recovered from a thigh injury to take his place on the bench.
The visitors are still missing a number of injured stars. Digby Ioane is expected to be fit for next week's clash following a knee injury, while Radike Samo (knee), Saia Faingaa (neck), Luke Morahan (ribs) and Nick Frisby (ankle) are also expected to be available for their Round 10 clash against the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium.
The Chiefs have to go in as overwhelming favourites in this one despite the overall record being in favour of the visitors. Having won all but one of their matches so far, to the Stormers in South Africa, the defending champions are looking all the more dangerous each week.
Their 28-19 victory over the Blues in Mt Maunganui was a symbol of their ability to grab hold of a match and dictate terms from the onset. It's almost fair to say the nine-point margin actually flattered the Sir John Kirwan-led Blues outfit that evening.
The Reds, however, haven't been as dominating. They needed a late winner to overcome the winless Highlanders 34-33, though achieving that in Dunedin is an impressive feat.
That victory gave the visitors a five win, two loss record to sit second in the Australian conference and fourth overall, ensuring they're well in the mix for playoff rugby at the end of round robin action.
Waikato Stadium is becoming a fortress for the Chiefs, and that should continue on Saturday afternoon against the Reds.
The defending champions will tackle their Queensland opponents in a player-friendly afternoon slot of 4.30pm (NZT), which should provide families a great opportunity to head down to the ground and support their side, weather permitting.
The only thing going for the Reds in this encounter is history. While the two sides have won the Investec Super Rugby championship over the last two years – the Reds won the tournament in 2011 – the visitors have also won the last three matches between the two sides.
The Reds' rich vein of form against New Zealand teams has also continued, winning 10 of their last 11 Super Rugby matches against Kiwi teams.
It's precious ammunition coach Ewen McKenzie is sure to hold on to, but it doesn't look enough for a side determined to prove their maiden title will not be their only one. Chiefs by 8
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