Preview: Chiefs v Blues

Richard Kahui 1582058051
The Chiefs are almost dead but won't lie down just yet, while the Blues are on the way to the Rebel Sport Super 14 playoffs.

VENUE & TIME: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, Saturday March 31, 19:35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 11 � Chiefs 5, Blues 6.

LAST TIME: May 13, 2006 (Auckland) � Blues 9-30 Chiefs.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Chiefs may have stopped adding to their list of broken and battered players and, glory be, they get some back off the hospital roster. Steven Bates and Richard Kahui have been deemed fit to start while possible returnees are Jono Gibbes and/or Keith Robinson. The Blues have Sam Tuitupou and Anthony Tuitavake back on the bench after each had missed a couple of weeks.

FORM: While the Chiefs managed to get out of Brisbane with the points, that's all they managed last week. They should have iced the game long before they did; perhaps Stephen Donald's kicking (clattering an easy one off the post and then putting one over at the 11th hour to take the lead) is a microcosm of the Chiefs' season � the easy stuff is proving hard but they're doing some of the harder things better. The Blues do most things well, whether on attack or defence, and have harvested 19 of the last 20 points available to them. Their place at the top of the table has been earned the hard way and they are value for their position.

WHO'S HOT: Byron Kelleher was the pick of the Chiefs last week and he looked sharp on attack or defence. Most of his colleagues drifted in and out of the game, doing some things well but making a meal of others. Foster has shown faith in some of his big names who have not been delivering and now is the time for them to repay his confidence. The Blues were strong in most areas last week. Both Jerome Kaino and Isaia Toeava, two young players who needed to add some consistency of performance to their raw talent, have turned in a series of solid matches which must please the selectors. Kaino in particular has been strong of late. To say Troy Flavell and Doug Howlett played well last week is to harp on a recurring theme, while George Pisi had his best match of the season.

WE THINK: Any result other than a large Blues win will be a major boilover. Since the Blues are making a good job of keeping their week-to-week focus, we can't see that happening. We think Nucifora's men will win this match comfortably and a 20-pointer would not be a shock, although the wet weather in the top part of the country may have an influence and help shave that margin.

TEAMS:

Chiefs: 1 � Simms Davison, 2 � Tom Willis (captain), 3 � Nathan White, 4 � Kristian Ormsby, 5 � Keith Robinson or Jono Gibbes or Toby Lynn, 6 � Steven Bates, 7 � Marty Holah, 8 � Sione Lauaki, 9 � Byron Kelleher, 10 � Stephen Donald, 11 � Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12 � Tasesa Lavea, 13 � Richard Kahui, 14 � Roy Kinikinilau, 15 � Dwayne Sweeney.

Reserves: 16 � Aled de Malmanche, 17 � Ben Castle, 18 � Robinson or Gibbes or Lynn, 19 � Liam Messam, 20 � Brendon Leonard, 21 � Tane Tu�ipulotu, 22 � Lelia Masaga.

Blues: 1 � Tony Woodcock, 2 � Derren Witcombe, 3 � John Afoa, 4 � Greg Rawlinson, 5 � Troy Flavell (captain), 6 � Jerome Kaino, 7 � Daniel Braid, 8 � Nick Williams, 9 � David Gibson, 10 � Isa Nacewa, 11 � Rudi Wulf, 12 � Luke McAlister, 13 � Isaia Toeava, 14 � Doug Howlett, 15 � Ben Atiga.

Reserves: 16 � Keven Mealamu, 17 � Nick White, 18 � Ali Williams, 19 � Justin Collins, 20 � Steve Devine, 21 � Sam Tuitupou, 22 � Anthony Tuitavake.


REFEREE: Steve Walsh

Richard Kahui 1582058051