Victorious Chiefs counting the cost
Victorious Chiefs counting the costSHARE
The defending champion Chiefs are counting the cost of their 18-10 win over the Crusaders in their Super Rugby showdown in Christchurch on Friday.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie admitted his team's depth is being tested in the early stages of the season, but felt he will have sufficient cover as the men from Hamilton look for a hat-trick of titles.
Forwards Ben Afeaki, Brodie Retallick, Kane Thompson, Tevita Koloamatangi and All Black Mils Muliaina were all forced off the field in the brutal clash in Christchurch.
Those names join an already lengthy injury list – with loose forwards Sam Cane, Tanerau Latimer, and Liam Squire also sidelined, along with backs, Gareth Anscombe, Bundee Aki and Robbie Robinson.
On top of that scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow was a late scratching from the 23-man matchday squad.
So depleted were the Chiefs' playing stocks, reserve hooker Nathan Harris was forced to make his Super Rugby debut at blindside flank.
"We finished the game with a hooker on the short side and Crossy [Nick Crosswell] playing openside normally a lock, No.6 or No.8," Rennie said afterwards.
"We've got pretty good depth but she was a bit of a casualty ward out there."
Despite their current predicament, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the back-to-back champions, with Latimer expected to be available for next weeks clash against the Highlanders in Hamilton.
The Crusaders came away from the match with their own concerns, after goal-kicker Tyler Blyendaal missed five penalty shots at goal, and his second-half replacement Tom Taylor was off-target with two attempts of his own.
Ill-discipline rather than injuries saw the red and blacks twice reduced to 14-men, with lock Dominic Bird and No. 6 George Whitelock both receiving yellow cards for professional fouls.
The home side's attack also lacked potency, and fell apart completely while searching for the match-winning try in the 79th minute, when Nafi Tuitavake's pass was intercepted by Chiefs replacement James Lowe, who raced 80 metres to secure the win.
"That was probably an insight into the match really, almost but we didn't quite get over the line," Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said.
Aaron Cruden's sideline conversion then left the Crusaders without any competition points but the gutsy victory came at a crippling cost.
Source: ONE Sport