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Chiefs have midfield gaps to fill in 2017

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/11/2016

The return of Tim Nanai-Williams is a relief to a Chiefs team whose midfield stocks will be put to the test in next year's Super Rugby campaign.

The Chiefs' squad for 2017 announced on Wednesday was missing All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams (Blues), Seta Tamanivalu (Crusaders) and the experienced Andrew Horrell (Japan), leaving some sizeable gaps to fill.

Assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge admits they also have concerns over when Charlie Ngatai will be available to play after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of all rugby since May.

"There are no guarantees with Charlie and it would be a huge loss if we didn't have him, so we have our fingers crossed as he's an incredibly influential player" Strawbridge said.

The losses have been offset by the return of the experienced Nanai-Williams from Japan and the signing of talented Taranaki second five-eighth Johnny Fa'auli.

"Tim's the ultimate Super Rugby player because he plays so many positions and is really good at all of them, so we're really excited to have him back," Strawbridge said.

The Chiefs loose forwards have a formidable look with the full-time return of former captain Liam Messam following a stint pursuing an Olympic sevens spot.

He will complement Test openside Sam Cane and Japan skipper Michael Leitch.

"Liam gives us some choices; we know what he can do and how passionate he is about the jersey and what a great player he's been for us, and provides some obvious depth in those positions," Strawbridge said.

The Chiefs are also happy to take another punt on Stephen Donald who missed almost all of the NPC season for Waikato with a shoulder injury suffered against the Stormers in July.

"Stephen's in really good nick and he's a game-breaker in his own right and we're looking for him to be a Mr Fix-it this year. He's obviously got a wealth of experience," Strawbridge said.

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