The Gallagher Chiefs have warmed up for the Investec Super Rugby playoffs with a well-deserved 28-24 win over the Hurricanes at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Needing to win by a margin of 23 points or more to leapfrog the Hurricanes on the points table, the Gallagher Chiefs jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and hung on for the win, but three second half tries to the Hurricanes was enough to ensure they will host next weekend's playoff match between the two sides.

Despite missing their in-form playmaker Damian McKenzie, who sat out the match as part of his enforced All Blacks rest, the Gallagher Chiefs looked the stronger of the two sides early on, and their positive start was rewarded with the first points of the evening - lock Brodie Retallick marking his return to the side in style, forcing his way over to score from a ruck close to the line.

First five Marty McKenzie, playing in place of his brother Damian, added the conversion for an early 7-0 lead.

Following the Retallick try, the visitors slowly worked their way into the game and were beginning to look dangerous. But then out of nowhere Gallagher Chiefs halfback Brad Weber intercepted a Beauden Barrett pass and scampered away to score from 60 metres out.

McKenzie was again on target off the tee to make it 14-0 after 18 minutes.

The Hurricanes again responded well to conceding points but once again it was the Chiefs who pounced against the run of play. Second five Johnny Fa'auli placed a kicked behind the defensive line which was toed ahead by wing Shaun Stevenson who regathered and then produced a perfect chest pass inside for fullback Solomon Alaimalo to race clear and score a superb try.

As the match approached the half hour mark, McKenzie kicked his third conversion to open up a comfortable 21-0 lead, cutting the Hurricanes' all important points differential to just two.

For the remainder of the first half it was the Hurricanes who held onto possession but the Chiefs were able to keep them pinned inside their own half, with no further score added as the teams went into the break.

Jordie Barrett had a chance to get the Hurricanes on the board early in the second half but he pushed his long-range penalty attempt wide.

They didn't have to wait too much longer for their first points though as a kick return from halfway, led by wing Ben Lam, ended in a try to centre Wes Goosen. Jordie Barrett's conversion narrowed the gap to 14 and stretched the points differential back out to nine.

A scything run from centre Anton Lienert-Brown then thrust the Chiefs straight back onto attack, but some clutch goal line defence from the visitors denied the Chiefs forwards from getting across the line.

With just over 20 minutes remaining, the Hurricanes struck a crucial blow with lock Blade Thomson crossing for their second try which gave his side further breathing space and brought them right back into the match.

To make matters worse for the Chiefs they were then reduced to 14 men for the remainder of the match with second five Johnny Fa'auli shown a red card for a high no arms tackle in the 63rd minute.

This was followed just minutes later by a try to Hurricanes prop Ben May who burrowed over in a pile of bodies, narrowing the Chiefs' lead to just two points.

Shortly after the restart, Brad Weber made a great snipe down the left-hand sideline, coming up just metres short of the line, with loose forward Mitch Karpik on hand to force his way over for the try.

McKenzie nailed the conversion from out wide, leaving the Chiefs with 14 points to score in the final nine minutes to reel in the Hurricanes' points differential.

The Chiefs continued to throw caution to the wind in search of those points, which ended in the Hurricanes having the final say as replacement Julian Savea scooped up a loose pass to score right on fulltime.

Despite the late try, the Chiefs were still able to leave their home fans satisfied with a hard-fought four point victory in their final match of the season at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Gallagher Chiefs 28 (Brodie Retallick, Brad Weber, Solomon Alaimalo, Mitch Karpik tries; Marty McKenzie 4 cons) Hurricanes 24 (Wes Goosen, Blade Thomson, Ben May, Julian Savea tries; Jordie Barrett 2 cons) HT: 21-0.

The Gallagher Chiefs will now head to Wellington next weekend for their playoff match against the Hurricanes.

Our Chiefs U18 team has been named to take on the Crusaders U18 team at St Paul's Colleigate School tomorrow. It is going to be a massive game, so make sure you get on down and support our future talent! Kickoff is 2:45pm.

  1. Pou Sorenson (Rotorua Boys High School)
  2. Bernie Hati (Rotorua Boys High School)
  3. Connar Brunton (Hamilton Boys High School)
  4. Josh Lord (Hamilton Boys High School)
  5. Thomas Martin (Hamilton Boys High School)
  6. Simon Parker (St Peter’s School)
  7. Jake Russ (Hamilton Boys High School)
  8. Andrew Viane (St Peter’s School)
  9. Cortiz Lee Ratima (Hamilton Boys High School)
  10. Rivez Reihana (St Kent’s, Waikato)
  11. Peni Lasaqa (Bay of Plenty)
  12. Lukas Halls (Kings College, Taranaki)
  13. Gideon Wrampling (St Paul’s School)
  14. Valynce Te Whare Crosby (St Paul’s School)
  15. Selesitino Ravautaumada (Rotorua Boys High School)
  16. Corrigan Miller (New Plymouth Boys High School)
  17. Keelan Holten McMullen (Hamilton Boys High School)
  18. Zac Ririnui (Rotorua Boys High School)
  19. Alex McRobbie (St Kent’s, Counties)
  20. Shi Jie Yong (Tauranga Boys College)
  21. Thor Manase (Wesley College)
  22. Manu Paea (Rotorua Boys High School)
  23. Daniel Rona (New Plymouth Boys High School)
  24. Paula Mahe (St Peter’s School)
  25. Blair Murray (New Plymouth Boys High School) 

The Gallagher Chiefs are set to play their last round robin match of the Investec Super Rugby competition this Friday. Going by overall competition points, this is sure to go down to the wire and be full of excitement, with the Hurricanes and the Gallagher Chiefs in second and third place of the New Zealand conference respectively.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper says the team are ready to put on a show for the home crowd.

"We’re going out there to put on a great performance, it could be our last game at home. We want to make sure that wherever there is an opportunity, that we grab it. We look forward to playing our own game, and are also aware of what the Hurricanes bring.

They showed against the Blues how good they are off the set piece - and we’ve done some work around our set piece defence - but with ball in hand, our focus is on what we can do.”

In the forwards, Sam Prattley gets his first start after effective performances off the bench for most of the season. Brodie Retallick comes back into the number four jersey after six weeks on the injured list, Lachlan Boshier getting a start after returning last week. Rounding out the impactful loose trio are Mitch Karpik and Jesse Parete.

In the backline, Marty McKenzie comes into the number ten jersey, with Colin Cooper confident in his ability to drive the game.

"Marty will be the game driver at number ten, and we are confident that he can control the game really well.” 

Colin reiterated the importance of playing this game in Chiefs Country.

"Our home crowd means a lot to us, and we aim to give them a great performance.”

The game kicks off at 7.35pm at FMG Stadium Waikato this Friday the 13th, with the “Squad Up” theme encouraging all fans to dress up in their best uniforms. The best dressed fans will win some awesome prizes, and the fun zones will be buzzing with school holidays in full swing.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to face the Hurricanes is:

1. Sam Prattley (8)

2. Liam Polwart (18)

3. Angus Ta’avao (15)

4. Brodie Retallick (96)

5. Tyler Ardron (10)

6. Lachlan Boshier (28)

7. Mitchell Karpik (11)

8. Jesse Parete (7)

9. Brad Weber (55)

10. Marty McKenzie (17)

11. Shaun Stevenson (31)

12. Charlie Ngatai (54)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (53)

14. Toni Pulu (32)

15. Solomon Alaimalo (24)

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (8)

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (14)

18. Jeff Thwaites (11)

19. Michael Allardice (32)

20. Liam Messam (177)

21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (15)

22. Tiaan Falcon (2)

23. Johnny Faauli (17)

On Monday evening, the Chiefs whanau joined together to celebrate the 2018 season and recognize the immense contribution of those who are moving on as well as celebrate the outstanding performances of the season.

The annual awards were shared between seven players, reflecting the fantastic contributions across the whole team.

The 2018 award winners are:

University of Waikato Development Taua Player Award: Ayden Johnstone

Generation Homes Under 20’s Player Award: Laghlan McWhannell

Rookie of the year: Luke Jacobson

Fans Player of the Year: Damian McKenzie

Coaches Player of the Year: Brodie Retallick

Players Player of the Year: Solomon Alaimalo

Chiefs Mana Kotiate: Mitchell Karpik

Chiefs Personality Award: Angus Ta'avao

For only the third time in Chiefs history in a fitting tribute, Liam Messam was awarded the Chiefs Tohunga lifetime award to recognise his incredible career with the club both on and off the field across his 12 seasons with the team.

This Friday, the Gallagher Chiefs will play their last home game of the regular season against the Hurricanes  at FMG Stadium Waikato.  The game kicks off at 7:35. Tickets are available online here. 

Come on down for an open training TODAY at the Ruakura Research Centre training fields from 12-1pm and get a selfie with the players at the end. Just a note there will be no toilet or shade facilities at the field. See you soon!   

The Gallagher Chiefs have continued their march towards the Investec Super Rugby playoffs, hanging on for a valuable 24-19 win over a gutsy Brumbies side at FMG Stadium Waikato.

After jumping out to a 17-0 at halftime thanks to some lethal attacking movements producing two great team tries, the Gallagher Chiefs were made to work right up to the final whistle as a gallant comeback from the Brumbies came up just short.

Both sides made a strong start to the match with the opening ten minutes an even contest for field position played at a good pace. Eventually it was the Gallagher Chiefs who got on the scoreboard first with first five Damian McKenzie on target with his first kick of the night.

Some promising attacking movements followed for the Gallagher Chiefs, with McKenzie in particular looking dangerous whenever he touched the ball, but some simple errors prevented them from really threatening the Brumbies line.

After a long period of dominance in possession and territory, a patient build up finally led to the opening try of the evening. A half break from second five Charlie Ngatai got the Chiefs on the front foot, and then a quick pass from the ruck to a charging Nathan Harris saw the hooker burrow his way over the line. McKenzie added the extras to make it a 10-0 lead after 25 minutes.

Following the Harris try the Brumbies managed to get themselves into the game and asked some questions of the Chiefs defence but then, against the run of play, a Chiefs turnover led to a superb long-range counter attacking try. McKenzie initiated the move with pass behind his back that set halfback Brad Weber into space and, after the ball moved through several sets of hands, it was fittingly McKenzie who split the defence apart from 20 metres out to score a wonderful try.

There was a great response from the visitors as the launched downfield once more, following a clean break from first five Christian Lealiifano, but as they reached the try line the ball was knocked on by lock Rory Arnold.

The first half ended with the Brumbies again looking good, but a knock on just as they were gathering momentum summed up the first 40 minutes for the visitors.

Despite the 17-point deficit, the Brumbies produced a gutsy first 15 minutes of the second half, controlling possession well and testing the Chiefs defence. The pressure eventually told when, in the 55th minute, some quick hands down the right-hand sideline found wing Henry Speight who crossed in the corner.

From the restart, the Brumbies launched downfield and very nearly got their second try in as many minutes, but the play broke down just metres from the line.

Then, as the Brumbies continued to hammer away at the Gallagher Chiefs line, Damian McKenzie snatched a timely intercept. After an 80 metre sprint he was caught by Brumbies fullback Tom Banks, but a couple of phases later the Chiefs were in as a replacement Marty McKenzie and Johnny Fa'auli combined - with McKenzie's well weighted chip kick gathered by Fa'auli who scored under the posts.

All of a sudden, the Chiefs lead was back out to 17 points, and the Brumbies comeback effort was back to where it had started at halftime.

The Brumbies continued to show plenty of character and were rewarded with a well worked try in the 71st minute - replacement first five Wharenui Hawera taking on the line and making a break which was nicely finished off by fullback Tom Banks.

The visitors backed that up with their third try just two minutes later as Henry Speight received the ball from a lineout and found space to score his second of the night, narrowing the Chiefs lead to just five and setting up a dramatic final few minutes.

Damian McKenzie had a chance to take it beyond a converted try in the 78th minute but his penalty attempt drifted wide, giving the Brumbies one last chance to snatch a dramatic win. They got to within 20 metres of the Chiefs line but, with the Chiefs defence scrambling, the ball was lost, allowing the Chiefs to clear form the resulting scrum to seal the win.

Gallagher Chiefs 24 (Nathan Harris, Damian McKenzie, Johnny Fa'auli tries; Damian McKenzie 3 cons, pen) Brumbies 19 (Henry Speight 2, Tom Banks tries; Wharenui Hawera 2 cons) HT: 17-0.

The Gallagher Chiefs will now prepare for their final round robin game of 2018, back at home again on Friday night against the Hurricanes (July 13, 7.35pm).

The Gallagher Chiefs await a huge business end of the season clash against the Brumbies this Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The game is highly significant, with the Gallagher Chiefs vying for a spot in the Investec Super Rugby playoffs. It is their first game back at home after the International June break and they will be looking to carry on the tremendous form that saw them run rampant in Suva against the Highlanders last weekend, winning 45-22.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper hopes his side can bring last weekend’s confidence into this game and looks forward to the fantastic support from our home fans.

“We are hoping to build the confidence and excitement from the Highlanders game and take that into the Brumbies game this weekend.

Both teams are great attacking teams, playing with a lot of confidence. It’ll be a great spectacle and our home fans can give us the edge we need.”

Their Canberra based opposition played valiantly last weekend to secure a 24-12 win against the Hurricanes. Cooper knows they’ll be a real threat and highlighted Wallabies loose forward David Pocock as one to watch.

“The Brumbies are coming here with confidence after beating the Hurricanes. They have an outstanding loose forward in Pocock who will be a real threat. They have a great lineout and are always a threat on attack.”

There’s only one change to the forward pack from the team that beat the Highlanders, with All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris returning to the fold after the birth of his first child.

“It’s good to have Nathan back. We are pleased he could spend time with his partner and his first child. He’s really excited and raring to go” says Cooper.

In the backline, Anton Lienert-Brown is rested as part of his All Black commitments with Sean Wainui moving to his natural position of centre. Exciting winger Shaun Stevenson gets the chance to impress with a start on the wing. Continuity is key with Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie again linking up in the nine and ten jerseys and Solomon Alaimalo continues at fullback, after a highly impressive showing last weekend.

At this time in the season, every point counts in the fight for the playoffs and Cooper knows the crowd can help spur the team on.

“We can’t wait for the crowd to come and support us and help us get over the line and into the quarter finals. It’ll be great to have their vocal support this weekend.”

The game kicks off at the earlier time of 5:15pm at FMG Stadium Waikato with a kids focused theme for the start of the school holidays. All kids tickets will receive a free JNR Chiefs 1-day pack, including a hot chip voucher, and there’ll be so much going on around the ground for the whole family to enjoy.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to face the Brumbies is:

1. Karl Tu’inukuafe (13)

2. Nathan Harris (42)

3. Angus Ta’avao (14)

4. Michael Allardice (31)

5. Tyler Ardron (9)

6. Luke Jacobson (11)

7. Sam Cane (c) (104)

8. Liam Messam (176)

9. Brad Weber (54)

10. Damian McKenzie (63)

11. Shaun Stevenson (30)

12. Charlie Ngatai (53)

13. Sean Wainui (12)

14. Toni Pulu (31)

15. Solomon Alaimalo (23)

RESERVES:

16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (7)

17.  Sam Prattley (7)

18. Jeff Thwaites (10)

19. Jesse Parete (6)

20. Lachlan Boshier (27)

21.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (14)

22. Marty McKenzie (16)

23. Johnny Faauli (16)

A massive congratulations to all the high school players who have made the Chiefs U18 Development camp starting this Sunday and running until Friday 13 July at St Pauls College in Hamilton. 

This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce these young players into the Chiefs environment and the camp will cover the six pillars of rugby development. This camp forms part of the selection process for the NZ Secondary Schools teams selected later in the year. 

The Chiefs U18 Development Camp players are:

Prop

Corrigan Miller (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki)

Leuatea Alo Tema (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Zac Ririnui (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Vincent Green (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Connor Brunton (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Pou Sorenson (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Nirai Ririnui (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Tutarangi Anderson (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki)

Irirangi Taniere (Wesley College, Counties)

Hooker

Bernie Hati (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Keelan Holten McMullen (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Taane Beech (Wesley College, Counties)

Mairenga Laapo (Francis Douglas Memorial College, Taranaki)

Lock

Josh Lord (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Tom Martin (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Alex McRobbie (Counties)

Daniel Johnson (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato)

AJ Lagalaga Slade (Manurewa HS, Counties)

Hemopo Cunningham (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Loose Forward

Simon Parker (St Peter’s School, Waikato)

Te Aparua Tata (Te Wharekura o Mauao, Bay Of Plenty)

Jake Russ (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Gabrielle Wilson (Pukekohe HS, Counties)

Taituha Woller (Te Wharekura o Mauao, Bay Of Plenty)

Thor Manase (Wesley College, Counties)

Tuki Simpkins (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Simione Ofa (Wesley College, Counties)

Shie Jie Yong (Tauranga BC, Bay Of Plenty)

Te Rama Reuben (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Andrew Viane (St Peter’s School, Waikato)

Halfback

Cortez Lee Ratima (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Manu Paea (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Kristian Standen (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki)

Tepaea Cook Savage (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato)

First Five

Rivez Reihana (Waikato)

Larenz Tupaea (Wesley College, Counties)

Midfield

Jacob Kneepkins (Francis Douglas Memorial College, Taranaki)

Daniel Rona (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki)

Jon Taumateine (Wesley College, Counties)

Cassius Misa (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

William Guthrie (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki)

Lucas Hall (Taranaki)

Paula Mahe (St Peter’s School, Waikato)

Gideon Wrampling (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato)

Wing

Manu Akauola (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Valynce Te Whare Crosby (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato)

Nicholas Nasila (Wesley College, Counties)

Kahi Borrell (Te Wharekura o Mauao, Bay Of Plenty)

Fullback

Selestino Ravutaumada (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Liam Wilson (Hamilton BHS, Waikato)

Tama Te Aute (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty)

Jermahl Hapi (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki)

Blair Murray (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki)

Standby Players

Tauhuroa Ngataki (Wesley College, Counties), Zion Lui (St Peter’s School, Waikato), Shannon Wiki (Tokoroa HS, Waikato), Reece Gray (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki), Havila Molia (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato), Stuart Leech (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty), TeAhurei Eparara (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty), Lachie Deveraux (Tauranga BC, Bay Of Plenty), Vaiolini Ekuasi (St Peter’s School, Waikato), Liam Allen (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato), Malupo Ma’afu (Rotorua BHS, Bay Of Plenty), Thomas Murray Edwards (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki), Brigham Moeakiola (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato), Cam Roigard (St Peter’s School, Waikato), Louis Grindrod (Tauranga BC, Bay Of Plenty), Bailey Gordon (Western Heights HS, Bay Of Plenty), Adam Smith (New Plymouth BHS, Taranaki), Josh Calvert (Hamilton BHS, Waikato), Teaabo Teaabo (Pukekohe HS, Counties), Lewini Mocevakaca (Hamilton BHS, Waikato), Mercedes Hodge (St Paul’s Collegiate, Waikato)

Unavailable due to Injury or other commitments

Taharoa Mita (Tauranga BC, Bay Of Plenty)

The Gallagher Chiefs have returned from the international break in style with a comprehensive 45-22 win over the Highlanders at ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji.

Right from the first whistle the Gallagher Chiefs were on top of their game, showing no signs of rust after three weeks off, with six first half tries launching them to a 23 point victory that fires a warning shot to the rest of the competition with the playoffs just around the corner.

The second half belonged to the Highlanders in what was a wildly entertaining 80 minutes of rugby, much to the delight of the large and vocal Suva crowd, but the damage had already been done earlier in the match with the result never really in doubt after the early burst of Gallagher Chiefs scoring.

With the wind behind them in the first half, the Gallagher Chiefs got off to the perfect start with a try inside the first two minutes of the match. Solomon Alaimalo burst into a gap from 40 metres out after some nice build up play, and the fullback showed great pace to beat the defence and score under the posts.

The early try gave the Chiefs plenty of confidence and they completely dominated the next 10 minutes. After inching their way towards the line, they were finally rewarded with more points as wing Toni Pulu muscled his way over for the second try.

Just two minutes later there was a third try on the back of more good field position thanks to a great clearing kick from Charlie Ngatai. Some slick handling by loose forwards Sam Cane and Luke Jacobson ended in prop Karl Tu'inukuafe getting the try.

The Chiefs continued to keep their foot on the throat, and their dominance in possession and territory led to yet another try as halfback Brad Weber picked up from the back of a messy scrum before producing a superb offload in the tackle to Luke Jacobson who stretched out to score.

First five Damian McKenzie nailed all four conversions for a 28-0 lead after just 25 minutes.

A yellow card for Number 8 Luke Whitelock's deliberate knock down then made matters worse for the Highlanders, and from the resulting scrum wing Sean Wainui squeezed his way over the line in the left-hand corner.

Just as it looked like the Highlanders were finally working their way downfield, a turnover from the Chiefs saw them counter attack in style with Alaimalo making the initial break, with the ball spun wide for Pulu to race away for his second try.

That was to be the final play of a remarkable first half, with McKenzie maintaining his perfect strike rate from the tee to convert the fifth and sixth tries and make it a 42-0 lead at halftime.

The Highlanders needed to respond quickly after the break and did so with a nicely worked try to second five Teihorangi Walden just a few minutes after the resumption of play.

From the kick off they broke clear immediately with second five Rob Thompson bursting through a gap to score a brilliant try - but it was ruled out due to a knock on in the build-up.

The action continued to swing from end to end with with some sensational ball movement which ended in the Chiefs' defence being stretched and Walden going over for his second try.

Momentum was now all with the Highlanders and they threatened to add further points on several occasions, but the Chiefs hung in there with some desperate scrambling defence.

As the fast and frenetic match headed into the final quarter, the Highlanders crossed for a third try to replacement prop Aki Seuli. Despite their second half resurgence the Highlanders still trailed by 25 points with time quickly running out.

A rare second half visit into the Highlanders 22 for the Chiefs saw them come away with three more points thanks to a Damian McKenzie penalty.

With just a couple of minutes left the Highlanders managed to have the final say of the match as a fourth try, scored by replacement Shannon Frizell, denied the Chiefs a bonus point.

Gallagher Chiefs 45 (Toni Pulu 2, Solomon Alaimalo, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Luke Jacobson, Sean Wainui tries; Damian McKenzie 6 cons, pen) Highlanders 22 (Teihorangi Walden 2, Aki Seuli, Shannon Frizell tries; Lima Sopoaga con) HT: 42-0.

The Gallagher Chiefs now return home for their final two round robin matches against the Brumbies (Sat 7 July, 5.15pm) and Hurricanes (Fri 13 July, 7.35pm).

The Gallagher Chiefs are set to take on the Highlanders this Saturday in Suva, Fiji. The team return to Fiji for the third consecutive year, with the Highlanders this year hosting the game at ANZ Stadium in Suva.

This highly anticipated match up will be the first since the International June test series break and both sides will be determined to impress and build momentum going into the last three round robin home games before the playoffs.

The last time the two teams met was at FMG Stadium Waikato in March, where the Gallagher Chiefs put in a clinical performance to win 27-22.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper is taking positives from the previous game against the Highlanders but knows how tough they’ll be.

“It was good to win that game, we had to fight really hard so we know the challenge the Highlanders will bring. Whoever stays in control the most in this game will be successful.”

In the forwards, Karl Tu’inukuafe starts in the front row with Liam Polwart and Angus Ta’avao after his cameos for the All Blacks in the June test series, and Canadian lock Tyler Ardron returns to the side.

Impressive youngster Luke Jacobson starts in the six jersey after a highly effective game against the Crusaders, scoring two tries and putting in a dominant performance.

Cooper has been impressed with Jacobson’s displays and has seen his growth at Investec Super Rugby level.

“Luke Jacobson has shown his growth at this level. He’s very physical and wins most of the defensive stats. He can play 7,6 and lock and shows his versatility well.”

In the backline, Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie start in the nine and ten jerseys, and Charlie Ngatai and Anton Lienert-Brown link up again in the midfield with Sean Wainui and Toni Pulu covering the wings.

Colin Cooper expects an entertaining game in Suva, with the Gallagher Chiefs ready to embrace the challenge.

“The weather in Fiji is going to be great for two teams desperate to win. It’s going to be an entertaining game, a typical New Zealand derby played in a place where the Fijian love Rugby. We are ready to embrace the challenge.”

The game kicks off at 7:35pm this Saturday, airing live on Sky Sport 1. Following this game, the Gallagher Chiefs will play back to back home games against the Brumbies and Hurricanes at FMG Stadium Waikato. For family and two-game special packages and ticketing information click here

The Gallagher Chiefs team to take on the Highlanders is:

1. Karl Tu’inukuafe (12)
2. Liam Polwart (17)
3. Angus Ta’avao (13)
4. Michael Allardice (30)
5. Tyler Ardron (8)
6. Luke Jacobson (10)
7. Sam Cane (c) (103)
8. Liam Messam (175)
9. Brad Weber (53)
10. Damian McKenzie (62)
11. Sean Wainui (11)
12. Charlie Ngatai (52)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (52)
14. Toni Pulu (30)
15. Solomon Alaimalo (22)

RESERVES:
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (6)
17.  Sam Prattley (6)
18. Jeff Thwaites (9)
19. Jesse Parete (5)
20. Mitch Karpik (10)
21.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (13)
22. Marty McKenzie (15)
23. Shaun Stevenson (29)

Powerful Fijian loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula has been a great addition to the Gallagher Chiefs this season, both on and off the field.

The 23-year old came into the team as an injury replacement player and has hit the ground running with excellent performances.

Pita Gus displayed great x-factor off the bench when he made his Gallagher Chiefs debut against the Highlanders which he notes as a highlight.

“My highlight was my debut against the Highlanders. I got on in the 64th minute and I managed to carry the ball about six times in a couple minutes – it was a great feeling to put on the jersey”

Outside of rugby, Pita Gus has represented Fiji in Basketball before putting his focus on rugby, and has worked as a Chef which he hopes to continue after his rugby career.

The opportunity to play Super Rugby has been noteworthy for Sowakula.

“I am really grateful that I got an opportunity. Donning the jersey has been a pleasure and I am blessed that all of my family have seen how far I have come in my career.”

And with the Gallagher Chiefs travelling to Fiji to take on the Highlanders this weekend, the Sowakula family are making sure they’re there in Suva to show their support!

“I’m really thankful that the Chiefs are able to go back to Fiji again to play there. I will be really happy if I get an opportunity to play as my family are coming and they’re hiring a bus to get there!”

Off the field, Pita Gus has lead the team in special Fijian hymns which they sing together, which has been a really special connection for him.

“The boys have been learning the Fijian hymns and we sing them together as a team. I am really thankful and it is great to see everyone singing them.”

The Gallagher Chiefs have travelled to Suva, Fiji where we are being hosted by the Highlanders in the first match following the June International break, kicking off this Saturday at 7:35pm NZ time. This will be the third time the team have played in Fiji, after games against the Crusaders in the previous two years. The team is looking forward to playing in front of the enormously passionate Fijian crowd. You can watch the game on Sky Sport 1 this Saturday and the team will be named tomorrow (Thursday 28 June) at 4pm.

Today we’ve been busy getting out and about in the beautiful Taranaki ahead of our mid-season hit out against the Hurricanes at the TSB Hub in Hawera tomorrow.

The day started bright and early with Tim, Tiaan and Lachlan venturing out to More FM to be interviewed live on air. It was great to be in the studio and Tiaan even managed to win the Taranaki quiz!

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We then travelled to Inglewood where the players had the pleasure of leading a skills session with 100 keen kids, organized by our friends First Windows & Doors. We really enjoyed leading the kids in different drills and seeing so much talent on show. The kids seemed to have a lot of fun and cherished getting a selfie and autograph at the end of the event.

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For Manaakitanga, we split into groups and headed to four primary schools around New Plymouth to visit the students and play some rugby with them. We visited Fitzroy Primary, St John Bosco, Merrilands School and Central School. The enthusiasm of the students was contagious and we were buzzing to play touch rugby with the kids, give them some tips and answer some tough questions in assembly! Central School even had their strongest kids attempt to tackle us in front of their class.

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To conclude the day, we had a captain’s run at Yarrow Stadium where we finished our preparation ahead of tomorrow’s big game. It was nice to meet fans after and get their best wishes before our clash against the Hurricanes.

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Tomorrow we take on the Hurricanes at the TSB Hub in Hawera. Entry is free and we will have a gold coin collection, raising funds toward Sport Taranaki and their TSSSA Taranaki Youth Forum, which is a cause nominated by Craig Norgate’s widow Jane Norgagte.

As an organisation, we are honoured to be commemorating Craig Norgate and supporting an organisation so fitting for what he stood for. Bring a gold coin this Thursday to support a great cause in the Taranaki community.