The Chiefs have been bolstered ahead of their showdown with the Sharks with news that skipper Craig Clarke will play in the final.
Clarke injured his knee in the semi-final and the medical team has been working furiously to get him ready for Saturday’s final. His inclusion in the starting side means the Chiefs are unchanged.
Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith said it is imperative that they rise to the level of performance which they displayed against the Crusaders last week.
‘We’ve got to, otherwise we’re not going to win it and not too many teams are able to back up two great performances in a row,’ said Smith.
‘The Crusaders haven’t been able to do it all year really. We’ve done it once – Blues and Crusaders in the second and third weeks – and maybe another time around the Bulls game we did well for two weeks in a row. But that’s our challenge and we’ve got to step up from where we were at last week and do even better – that’s what it’s going to take.’
Smith was liberal in his praise of the Sharks. ‘We’ve been watching them win eight of their last nine matches, they’ve had quite a number of sudden-death performances so they’re used to it, while we haven’t had to go down the same road.
‘So they will have forged a really good spirit and while they will be trying to battle that travel factor and have come a long way, you can win away from home and they’ve shown that,’ he said.
‘We’ve just got to go out expecting them to be at their best, just as we expected the Crusaders to be at their best. They’re physical and probably the most talented team on paper if you look at them among those other South African teams.
‘We weren’t at our best [the last time they met] and they weren’t at their best – this will be a different kettle of fish.’
Chiefs – 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga