The New Zealand Conference leaders depart for South Africa with five wins from their opening five games of the 2017 Investec Super Rugby season. A 26-strong Gallagher Chiefs squad is bound for Cape Town for their first match against the Stormers at 3.15am (NZT) on Sunday 9 April. They will then travel on to Bloemfontein to play the Cheetahs.

Co-captain Sam Cane will travel over on Thursday pending fitness to prepare for the Gallagher Chiefs match against the Cheetahs the following week.

The Gallagher Chiefs squad for the South African tour is:

FORWARDS:

Kane Hames

Siegfried Fisi’ihoi

Aidan Ross

Hika Elliot

Brayden Mitchell

Atu Moli

Sosefo Kautai

Dominic Bird

Brodie Retallick

Taleni Seu

Mitchell Brown

Liam Messam

Lachlan Boshier

Michael Leitch

Sam Cane (to travel later pending fitness)

BACKS:

Tawera Kerr-Barlow

Finlay Christie

Aaron Cruden

Stephen Donald

Johnny Faauli/Alex Nankivell

Anton Lienert-Brown

Sam McNicol

Toni Pulu

James Lowe

Solomon Alaimalo

Shaun Stevenson

Damian McKenzie

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Chase Tiatia, Charlie Ngatai, Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Polwart, Michael Allardice and Nepo Laulala. 

The Gallagher Chiefs have fought back from a six-point deficit at halftime to beat the Bulls 28-12 at FMG Stadium Waikato for a bonus point win that keeps their unbeaten start to the season intact.

In a mixed performance coming back from the bye week, the Chiefs effort was not helped by plenty of simple errors with and without the ball, but they eventually did enough to grind down a determined Bulls side to secure a fifth win to take them back to the top of the Investec Super Rugby standings.

Proceedings began with a huge ovation for Chiefs stalwart Liam Messam, who led the team out in his 150th game for the club, but the Bulls had plans of spoiling the party from the outset as they made an encouraging start to the match.

A fast paced opening 10 minutes saw the visitors enjoy all the early field position, and nearly 90% possession, which they converted into two penalties from first five Handre Pollard for a 6-0 lead.

The slow start from the Chiefs was made even worse when flanker Sam Cane was ruled out of the match with concussion, and he was replaced by Mitch Karpik.

In one of their only raids into Bulls territory throughout the first half, the Chiefs produced a strong scrum to win a penalty which saw first five Aaron Cruden kick the Chiefs’ first points of the evening.

Momentum continued to be with the Bulls throughout the middle stages of the first half, with the home side uncharacteristically slipping off a few tackles, and the overwhelming amount of possession and territory resulted in a third penalty from Pollard.

As the half moved into the final 10 minutes, the Chiefs slowly worked their way into the match but some gutsy Bulls defence denied several waves of attack, helped again by some unforced errors from the Chiefs.

Halftime came at a good time for the Bulls, with the Chiefs starting to look dangerous, and they happily kicked the ball into touch to take a deserved 9-3 lead into the break.

After no tries for either side in the first half, the match began to open up shortly after the break with both teams playing positively.

Then came a piece of individual brilliance from Chiefs right wing Shaun Stevenson who stood up his marker to get space on the outside before kicking past the fullback and diving on the loose ball over the goal line to score.

A brilliant sideline conversion from Cruden all of a sudden had the Chiefs in front for the first time in the match, 10-9.

The try gave the Chiefs plenty of confidence and they continued to threaten with ball in hand, and a Cruden penalty nudged them further in front as the match neared the three quarter mark.

After weathering the storm, the Bulls found their feet once more and a penalty from near halfway saw Pollard narrow the gap back to one.

Fullback Damian McKenzie went desperately close to extending the Chiefs lead again, but more courageous Bulls defence saw him lose the ball in the tackle over the line. There was penalty advantage however and Cruden chipped over a simple three-pointer.

McKenzie didn’t have to wait long to get back into the action as a well worked set piece play saw halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow toe through a kick which McKenzie pounced on to score to all but seal the result.

As time wound down there was only one team that looked like adding further points, and a patient build up from the Chiefs saw replacement prop Atu Moli grab the ball close to the line and barge his way over for the third try.

The Bulls had a late chance to deny the Chiefs their bonus point but fittingly a Liam Messam turnover put an end to their attack and ensured the Chiefs banked another five competition points ahead of their South African road trip.

Gallagher Chiefs 28 (Shaun Stevenson, Damian McKenzie, Atu Moli tries; Aaron Cruden 2 cons, 3 pens) Bulls 12 (Handre Pollard 4 pens) HT: 3-9.

The Gallagher Chiefs now pack their bags for a trip to South Africa to take on the Stormers (Sunday 9 April, 3.15am NZ time) in Cape Town and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (Sunday 16 April, 1.05am NZ time).

Former All Black Captain, Richie McCaw, has been appointed as a Patron of the New Zealand Rugby Foundation.

Rugby Foundation Chief Executive, Lisa Kingi-Bon today announced, post the Annual General Meeting, that McCaw had accepted an invitation to become a Patron for the respected national organisation which, since 1986, has worked to support seriously injured rugby players and their families.

McCaw will join All Black great, Sir Colin Meads, who is already the Patron.  The Foundation’s charter allows, as of today, for the appointment of more than one Patron. Sir Colin nominated Richie’s appointment.

Of his appointment, McCaw said “I’m honoured to be offered this opportunity – I am already very familiar with the Foundation’s work and objectives, in assisting our seriously injured players and their families to carry on with their lives, education and businesses – this role provides a great opportunity for me to support the rugby and wider community, which has supported me and my rugby career over the years”.

Foundation Chairman, Gerard van Tilborg, welcomed McCaw’s appointment saying “Richie’s reputation and standing in the community will be of great benefit to our ongoing work and goals of supporting our rugby players who have been seriously injured. We have been talking with Richie for a while and we are really pleased that he has agreed to join our ranks”.

Sir Colin Meads, who has been Patron since 2013, following the passing of All Black icon Sir Wilson Whineray, said “I’m delighted that Richie has agreed to become a Patron for the Foundation alongside me.”

At the AGM today Former All Black Captain Andy Leslie replaced Tane Norton as the Rugby Foundation President.  Andy was one of the founding First XV members in 1986.

Veteran Gallagher Chiefs loose forward Liam Messam is dedicating his 150th game to Ka’iulani Forbes, the courageous Waikato 2-year old battling stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma. Messam and many of his Gallagher Chiefs teammates may run a little faster this Saturday when they take on the Bulls at FMG Stadium Waikato, having shaved their hair this week to raise money to assist the Forbes family in paying for the medical treatment Ka’iulani requires abroad.

Gallagher Chiefs head Coach Dave Rennie said: “It’s a special occasion for Liam, his whanau and our Club this Saturday when he runs out for his 150th game for the Chiefs. Liam epitomises Chiefs mana; he has a massive work ethic and is an inspirational leader. While this milestone acknowledges Liam’s on-field achievements, we are immensely proud of the work he does with charities and in the community. It’s great to be able to honour Liam at home, a place where he’s received massive support from Chiefs fans since 2006.”

An experienced lineup will take the field with Messam  in his milestone game this Saturday night. In the forwards, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi will start for the first time this season, packing down alongside Hika Elliot and Nepo Laulala. Dominic Bird and Brodie Retallick partner in the second row for the fifth consecutive game. Liam Messam moves from number eight to start at blindside flanker, with co-captain Sam Cane and Michael Leitch completing the formidable loose forward trio in jerseys 7 and 8 respectively. 

In the backs, Tawera Kerr-Barlow will don jersey 9 again this week, with Aaron Cruden returning to the starting fifteen to start at first five-eighth. Johnny Faauli is promoted from the bench to partner Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield. James Lowe is back on the left wing this week, with Shaun Stevenson and Damian McKenzie completing the backline.

It’s an exciting night for 28-year-old Southland hooker Brayden Mitchell who could make his Gallagher Chiefs debut off the bench.

 

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Bulls at 7.35pm this Saturday is:

1. Siegfried Fisi'ihoi (15)

2. Hika Elliot (108)

3. Nepo Laulala (4)

4.  Dominic Bird (15)

5. Brodie Retallick (75)

6. Liam Messam (149)

7. Sam Cane (88) Co-Captain

8. Michael Leitch (25) 

9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (71)

10. Aaron Cruden (77) Co-Captain

11. James Lowe (40)

12. Johnny Faauli (3)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (28)

14. Shaun Stevenson (11)

15. Damian McKenzie (37)

RESERVES

16. Brayden Mitchell*

17. Kane Hames (13)

18. Atu Moli (15)

19. Taleni Seu (21)

20. Mitchell Karpik (2)

21. Finlay Christie (2)

22. Stephen Donald (93)

23. Solomon Alaimalo (1)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

*denotes Gallagher Chiefs debut

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harris, James Tucker, Glen Fisiiahi, Chase Tiatia, Charlie Ngatai, Tim Nanai-Williams and Liam Polwart.