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Chiefs confident replacements can step up

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/04/2017

The Chiefs have taken some calculated risks as they prepare for a first Super Rugby meeting with the Sunwolves.

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick and Japan captain and No. 8 Michael Leitch have been left out of the match in Hamilton on Saturday night to recover after a heavy workload.

Assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge admits this could hurt the home side but is banking on their replacements to step up.

"We have the utmost faith in everyone in this squad and I expect the intensity to be upped with the spark plugs we have coming on to the field," he said.

In a starting line-up featuring nine changes, lock Taleni Seu is among those brought in, as are flankers Mitchell Karpik and Tom Saunders in a rejigged back three.

"Michael needs to recharge his batteries and these guys get their chance based on that," Strawbridge said of Karpik and Saunders.

"Taleni Seu came on last week and knocked the Force around with some dominant tackling so he gets a shot starting at lock."

The Chiefs are also taking a punt out wide with exciting Northland player Solomon Alaimalo winning his second start on the wing ahead of James Lowe, who has dropped to the reserves.

Strawbridge said the selection was based on form, but Lowe would be expected to come on and "do some damage".

The pressure will also be on young halfback Jonathan Taumateine to play a full game following the injury to Tawera Kerr-Barlow and the suspension of Finlay Christie.

First five-eighth Aaron Cruden will be the back-up option with the decision made not to use Richard Judd, who was originally slated to provide cover.

"It's been a while since Richard's been in our environment and it's just too much to learn in a short space of time," Strawbridge said.

"Aaron's not a regular halfback but he's a highly competent, very skilled player and has done a wonderful job covering for us there in the past."

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