Chiefs bolstered by key returning players

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Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes said while the side had regained some respect since ending their losing streak, they were still not the finished product.

And given the way the Highlanders beat the Crusaders on Good Friday, they had been given a reminder of the job ahead of them.

"They brought a lot of energy to their game, and good on them too, they got the result they needed."

"They'll be a bloody bigger task for us to get over now, because they'll be highly-confident and, I presume, wanting to repeat the dosage to us down there. It should be a good battle," he said.

The Chiefs were different from when they played the Highlanders in the first round, but so were the Highlanders. And that was a natural occurrence during a season, he said.

However, the Chiefs will be without the guidance and experience of captain and flanker Sam Cane. He is due to have surgery for a pectoral injury.

Returning players have bolstered the side. Flanker Lachlan Boshier heads the list in a timely return from a long-term injury. Back from concussions are lock Tupou Vaa'i and three-quarter Bailyn Sullivan, prop Sione Mafileo from a back injury, Josh Lord a shoulder injury, and wings Etene Nanai-Seturo with a hamstring and Jonah Lowe from sickness.

"When you pick a squad, you want people that can shift into other positions. So, we've got what we think is the best option for this week starting. So, you'll have to wait and see who that is.

"It hurts not having Sam with us, he's one of the best in the world. But we've got some pretty capable boys to fill in his shoes," he said.

Cane will have a role to play with the side.

"He's still one of our leaders, he's got a great eye in the game, he's an inspiration to us all. He'll still chip away and contribute to whatever happens in this season."

Whether another co-captain will be appointed to share the role with halfback Brad Weber is still to be decided.

"We're considering options with some of the other boys and seeing how comfortable they are in that area," he said.