All eyes on Ngatai in New Plymouth
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Chiefs midfield sensation Charlie Ngatai makes his return to Super Rugby this weekend, starting at inside centre against the Reds at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
It's a fitting venue for the 26-year-old to make his comeback in front of thousands of fans, many of whom have also enjoyed Ngatai’s thrilling performances for his provincial team Taranaki.
The humble midfielder is not the only exciting addition to the Chiefs this week, with All Black hooker Nathan Harris being named in the reserves. The 25-year old has worked his way back from a knee injury sustained in August 2016 to make his first appearance this season.
Anticipating a combative and astute Reds side, Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has named an experienced playing 23.
There are eight changes to the starting XV that defeated the Sunwolves 27-20 to record their eighth win of the season last Saturday.
In the forwards, Brodie Retallick returns to the side as the sole change to the tight five. There's a reshuffle in the loose forwards with co-captain Sam Cane shifting from No.8 to openside flank. Mitchell Brown is promoted from the bench to start at blindside flank, and Michael Leitch returns to the 23 to start at No.8.
A dangerous backline awaits the Reds, with five All Blacks named to start. Tawera Kerr-Barlow returns to re-establish his partnership with co-captain Aaron Cruden in jerseys No.9 and No.10 respectively. Charlie Ngatai links up with Anton Lienert-Brown to form a formidable midfield combination, with James Lowe, Toni Pulu and Damian McKenzie completing the backline at 11, 14 and fullback.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Sam McNicol, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Date: Saturday, May 6
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Kick-off: 19.35 (17.35 AEST; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)