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Mirai and Mikako Sato are not your typical Chiefs fans: they’re next level. Rugby has been such an important part of their relationship that they chose a Chiefs-themed photoshoot over a traditional wedding ceremony.

Mirai met Mikako during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and the couple’s favourite date nights were watching rugby at sports bars. Both grew up around the game: Mirai’s father played rugby, and Mikako followed Sanix world youth rugby from a young age.

In May 2012, their passion for the game became passion for the Chiefs when they attended their first match at FMG Stadium Waikato. Mirai had lived in Rotorua for nearly a decade, so logically he backed his region’s Super Rugby team. The pair fell in love with the live display, the stadium atmosphere, and the opportunities to get autographs and photos with the players.

This thrilling experience kept them coming back throughout the season and in the end they witnessed their beloved team win its first Super Rugby trophy in 2012.

“The final against the Sharks has to be the greatest sporting moment of my life. It was an incredible experience: the roar and chant of the crowd, 80 minutes of excitement, a whole array of emotions including tears. Words cannot quite describe the feeling. You just had to be there! It was special to see the players perform their victory haka at the end to the fans also,” said Mirai.

Ecstatic, Mirai and Mikako signed up as members for the 2013 season and have been loyal ever since: “Being Chiefs members is an integral part of our lives. Mikako and I met, engaged, married and started a family, and the Chiefs has always been present somehow in our relationship.”

Another highlight of being Chiefs members has been meeting and introducing their son Outa to all of the players at Members Day. Mirai and Mikako have their own Chiefs rugby dream for Outa in the future, wanting to see him play for the Chiefs when he is older.

Damian McKenzie and Brad Weber are Mikako’s favourite players because she loves the bravery they display every time they take the field. Mirai’s two stand out players are James Lowe and Aaron Cruden.

“James is such a skilful player, and after the games he always takes the time to chat with fans, take photos and sign autographs, he always has a big smile on his face. I actually wanted to name my son after James but my parents wouldn’t let me!

“Aaron is always the first person to start practising and the last person to leave the ground after meeting the fans after a match. He is inspiring, humble and provides great leadership.”

Mirai and Mikako say they have total respect for all the rugby players.

“They play one of the toughest sport on the planet. They need to be strong and skilful and rugby is a mental game as well. We are so grateful for watching the best rugby in the world!”

Their passion for the game has even turned Mikako’s sister in Japan into a rugby lover.

 “Mikako’s sister wasn’t interested in rugby; however, now she follows the Fukuoka Sanix Blues and flies to watch Sunwolves game in Tokyo. She’s even started playing some touch footy.”

Mirai, Mikako and Outa are confident that this year their team can claim its third Super Rugby title: “I can see Sam and Aaron are holding the trophy. I really hope to win this season to give the coaches and some players a rousing send off.”

But win or lose, the Satos will still be next-level fans: “We will support the mighty Chiefs as long as we can.”

The excitement is palpable ahead of the Gallagher Chiefs historic Round 10 match against the Sunwolves this Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato. It is the first time these two teams will meet in Investec Super Rugby history. Following three weeks abroad, the Gallagher Chiefs are eager to play in front of their fans at home and extend a special Chiefs welcome to the Sunwolves and their loyal following.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie is meeting the challenge head on naming a strong, regenerated lineup to take on Japan’s sole Super Rugby side. There are two positional changes and nine personnel changes to the starting fifteen that defeated the Western Force 16-7 last Saturday.

In the forwards, there’s a new look front row with Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala returning to the playing 23 to start in jerseys 1 and 3 respectively. Hika Elliot is promoted from the bench to start at hooker. Dominic Bird retains his place at lock for the second consecutive week, partnering with Taleni Seu who moves from the reserves to start in jersey 5. Tom Sanders rejoins the playing 23 this week to start at blindside flanker. He’s joined in the loose forwards by Mitchell Karpik who gets his second start of the season at openside flanker and co-captain Sam Cane who switches to number 8 this week.

The changes continue in the backs with Jonathan Taumateine named to make his first start for the Gallagher Chiefs at halfback. He’ll have plenty of support from experienced co-captain Aaron Cruden who starts at first five-eighth for the fifth game in a row. The two positional changes sees Sam McNicol switch from centre to the left wing, with Anton Lienert-Brown slotting into the vacated 13 jersey from second five-eighth. Stephen Donald is promoted from the bench to start in jersey 12. Solomon Alaimalo earns his second start of the season to play on the right wing and Damian McKenzie retains his spot as starting fullback.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Sunwolves at 7.35pm this Saturday 29 April is:

1.            Kane Hames (16)

2.            Hika Elliot (112)

3.            Nepo Laulala (5)

4.            Dominic Bird (19)

5.            Taleni Seu (25)

6.            Tom Sanders (17)

7.            Mitchell Karpik (3)

8.            Sam Cane (87)

9.            Jonathan Taumateine (2)

10.         Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (81)

11.         Sam McNicol (14)

12.         Stephen Donald (96)

13.         Anton Lienert-Brown (32)

14.         Solomon Alaimalo (3)

15.         Damian McKenzie (41)    

RESERVES:

16.         Brayden Mitchell (4)

17.         Aidan Ross (1)

18.         Sosefo Kautai (3)

19.         Mitchell Brown (8)

20.         Liam Messam (153)

21.         Alex Nankivell (2)

22.         Shaun Stevenson (15)

23.         James Lowe (44)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, Glen Fisiiahi, Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Polwart, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Toni Pulu,  Charlie Ngatai, James Tucker, Michael Allardice, Johnny Faauli and Finlay Christie.

Gates open to this Saturday night’s match at 4.50pm in time for a unique curtain raiser featuring the New Zealand University XV vs. Kanto, from Japan, at 5pm. The entertainment extends beyond the field with a special Taiko Drum performance happening prior to the main game also. The Gallagher Chiefs Round 10 contest against the Sunwolves kicks off at 7.35pm. Tickets are available from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

Our boys are back from their tour, so what better way to welcome them back these school holidays than by coming to open training before our clash against the Sunwolves this Saturday!

Details

WHEN: TODAY ,  Thursday 27 April

TIME: 2:30pm-4:00pm

WHERE: Ruakura Training Fields, Ruakura Research Centre, 10 Bisley Road, Hamilton

Please note, you will be able to grab a quick selfie and autograph with the players at the end, but please refrain from taking photos of the actual training session. 

There will be no toilet or shade facilities at the training field.

Purchase tickets for our game against the Sunwolves this Saturday, here!

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Gallagher Chiefs have come away from nib Stadium in Perth with a hard fought 16-7 win over the Western Force.

With the scores tied 7-all at halftime, three second half penalties from first five Aaron Cruden was enough to push the Gallagher Chiefs clear for their seventh win from eight games.

There was a good tempo to the game early on with both teams moving the ball well and the Gallagher Chiefs showing some positive signs on attack right from the opening whistle.

After an early penalty miss from the Force, the Gallagher Chiefs struck the first blow of the match as Cruden split the defence up the middle from a kick return which ended in a try to Liam Messam, converted by Cruden.

Both sides continued to have their moments throughout the opening quarter but a missed long range penalty attempt from fullback Damian McKenzie was the closest the Gallagher Chiefs came to more points.

With the Gallagher Chiefs unable to extend their lead the home side grew in confidence. A line out drive ten metres from the line resulted in a Force try to loose forward Matt Hodgson, and halfback Ian Prior’s conversion tied the scores.

As halftime approached the Gallagher Chiefs finished strongly and eventually found their way over the line, thanks to prop Ziggy Fisi’ihoi, but the try was ruled by the TMO for a knock on over the line.

The teams headed into the break locked up at 7-all with the Gallagher Chiefs left rueing a high number of turnovers and handling errors.

Cruden got the second half started on the right foot as he knocked over a straight forward three-pointer just a couple of minutes after the resumption of play to nudge the visitors in front once more.

A knock on from the restart by replacement halfback Finlay Christie then gave the Force a golden opportunity to hit back but the Gallagher Chiefs defence survived.

McKenzie was in fine form all evening and he sparked another Gallagher Chiefs counter attack, with handling errors at crucial times again letting the visitors down. But momentum was now all with the Gallagher Chiefs and in the 55th minute Cruden kicked his second penalty of the night to push the lead out to six points.

A much needed period on attack for the Force followed the Cruden penalty, but they were greeted by some in-your-face Gallagher Chiefs defence, led by Sam Cane.

After swinging back downfield, a massive Gallagher Chiefs scrum won them a penalty in a handy position for Cruden to chip over another penalty for some further breathing space – a nine-point advantage with just 13 minutes left.

In the final 10 minutes the Gallagher Chiefs looked likely to seal the match, threatening inside the Force 22 on several occasions, and were again denied by the TMO with a try to replacement Stephen Donald correctly ruled out due to a knock on in the lead up.

Some more rock solid defence then put a stop to the final attacking effort from the Force and the Gallagher Chiefs finished their three-week road trip with four more competition points.

Gallagher Chiefs 16 (Liam Messam try; Aaron Cruden con, 3 pens) Western Force 7 (Matt Hodgson try; Ian Prior con) HT: 7-7.

After three weeks on the road the Gallagher Chiefs return home to FMG Stadium Waikato for their Round 10 match against the Sunwolves next Saturday (April 29, kick off 7.35pm). Tickets are available from http://www.ticketdirect.co.nz/event/details/153986/gallagher-chiefs-v-sunwolves.

Seven games, six victories, 27 tries and 29 competition points – with Round 9 marking the midpoint of the 2017 Investec Super Rugby regular season, the Gallagher Chiefs can draw confidence from their performances to date as they prepare to take on a highly-motivated Western Force lineup in Perth this weekend.

Saturday’s game is the final fixture of the Gallagher Chiefs three-week international tour. In Round 7, the team suffered their only defeat of the season thus far, losing 34-26 to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town. The Gallagher Chiefs showed remarkable composure a week later against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, returning from the halftime break 10 points down to run in four unanswered tries and record a 41-27 win over the home side.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made four changes to the starting fifteen that fronted the Cheetahs last Saturday. In the forwards, there’s just one change to the front row with Siegfried Fisi’ihoi being promoted from the reserves to start at loosehead prop. Dominic Bird rekindles his partnership with Brodie Retallick in the second row, while Liam Messam will start this week at blindside flanker.

There’s just one change in the backs with Shaun Stevenson moving from the bench to start on the right wing. Of note in the reserves is the inclusion of former New Zealand Under 20s representative Aidan Ross. The 21-year old Bay of Plenty prop is in line to make his Investec Super Rugby debut off the bench.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Western Force at 9.45pm (NZT) Saturday is:
1. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (18)
2. Brayden Mitchell (3)
3. Atu Moli (18)
4. Dominic Bird (18)
5. Brodie Retallick (78)
6. Liam Messam (152)
7. Sam Cane (86)
8. Michael Leitch (28)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (74)
10. Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (80)
11. James Lowe (43)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (31)
13. Sam McNicol (13)
14. Shaun Stevenson (14)
15. Damian McKenzie (40)

RESERVES:

16. Hika Elliot (111)
17. Aidan Ross**
18. Sosefo Kautai (2)
19. Taleni Seu (24)
20. Lachlan Boshier (12)
21. Finlay Christie (4)
22. Stephen Donald (95)
23. Toni Pulu (19)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Polwart, Michael Allardice, Nepo Laulala, Johnny Faauli and Mitchell Brown.

The international travel abates somewhat for the Gallagher Chiefs following Saturday’s match against the Western Force in Perth. Barring their Round 13 contest against the BNZ Crusaders in Fiji, the team’s remaining six regular season games all take place on New Zealand soil, beginning with the Gallagher Chiefs historic clash against the Sunwolves at FMG Stadium Waikato on 29 April.

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Player Profile

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Sam Cane
Full Name: Sam Cane
Team: Chiefs
Position:Loose forward
Height:189cm
Weight:103kg
DOB:13.01.92
Super Rugby Games:82
Super Rugby Points:55 (11t)
Super Rugby Debut:2011 v Lions in Johannesburg
Province:Bay of Plenty
Provincial Games:19
Provincial Points:25 (5t)
Provincial Debut:2010 v Auckland in Mt Maunganui
Test Caps:37
Test Points:55 (11t)
Test Debut:2012 v Ireland in Christchurch
instagram:#samcane
Facebook ID:456670991114990
Twitter Username:SamCane7
Youtube:Sam Cane

"Sam is a true professional in every sense of the word.  He thrived as co-captain of the team in 2016 and we look forward to seeing him lead across the field in 2017."- The Chiefs

Sam enters his sixth season with the Chiefs and is a key part of the team’s leadership.  On the back of a stellar Super Rugby season last year he collected  the Chiefs Players’ Player of the Year and showed many mature performances in his role as co-captain.   

The talented loose forward has won two Investec Super Rugby titles, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a U20 Junior World Championship gold medal and is a former New Zealand Rugby Age Group Player of the Year.

If you weren’t a rugby player, what would you be doing?
Guitarist in a rock band

Who was your favourite player as a kid?
Jeff Wilson

What event would you go to the Olympics for … No sevens allowed!
Beach Volleyball

Favourite sportsperson outside rugby?
Roger Federer

Forwards- What position would you put yourself in the backline and why?
Backs- What position would you put yourself in the forward pack and why?

Second Five

What’s your go to meal in the kitchen?
Creamy Chicken Fettucine

What’s your mum’s best meal for her boy?
Roast Lamb

Who is the best singer in the team?
Nathan Harris

Favourite movie quote?
Life is a game of inches, so is football –Al Pacino-Any given Sunday

What would you spend your last $10 on?
Two handles of beer for me and a mate

2017 Investec Super Rugby Table

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