Youth and experience blend impeccably to create powerful propping stocks for the 2018 Gallagher Chiefs. Kane Hames and Sosefo Kautai have committed to the Chiefs until 2019, with Nepo Laulala and Atunaisa Moli signing for the next three years.

Incoming Gallagher Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper said: “I am very excited by the signings of four quality front rowers for next year and the future of the Chiefs. Kane and Nepo are great men on and off the field. They bring a huge amount of experience, leadership and are very driven, plus they provide continuity which is great for the team. Atunaisa and Sosefo are young, hard-working and important for the future. Atunaisa offers versatility as he can play on both sides of the scrum, while Sosefo is finding his feet in Super Rugby quickly which will create some great competition for places. I’m looking forward to working with them all and seeing them continue to grow as players and men.”

Loosehead prop Kane Hames has dominated the Gallagher Chiefs number 1 jersey this season, starting in 12 of the 13 games he has played this year to date. The 28-year-old joined the Gallagher Chiefs as injury cover in 2016, with his performances earning him an All Blacks Test debut against Australia in August last year. The 1.81m and 113kg studious tighthead prop hails from Bay of Plenty but currently plays his Mitre 10 Cup rugby with the Tasman Makos. Hames has an immense work ethic, high standards and is a strong leader. The Maori All Blacks representative is also a registered rugby referee and he has thus far played 22 games for the Gallagher Chiefs.

Sosefo Kautai made his Mitre 10 Cup debut for Waikato last year, following an impressive campaign with the New Zealand Under 20s side. At 1.89m and 133kg, Kautai is the best scrummager for his age in the country. The 20-year-old tighthead prop made his Investec Super Rugby debut for the Gallagher Chiefs against the Stormers in Cape Town this year and has since added three more caps to his name. The Sacred Heart College graduate and Auckland age-grade representative is a very instinctive player who has an exciting future ahead of him.

Samoan-born Nepo Laulala has been a mainstay of the Gallagher Chiefs forward pack this season, starting in every one of his 11 appearances this year. The Wesley College alumnus made his Investec Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2013, playing 33 games over two seasons for the southern side before moving north to join the Gallagher Chiefs in 2015. That same year, Nepo Laulala was selected for the All Blacks and has played 4 Tests for the national side to date. After missing the 2016 season due to a serious knee injury, 26-year-old Laulala made his long-awaited debut for the Chiefs against the Highlanders in February this year. At 1.84m and 116kg, the hard-working Counties Manukau prop is regarded as one of the best tighthead scrummagers in the country. 

Atunaisa Moli is a very talented rugby player with a lot of potential. The 1.89m and 127kg Waikato prop is equally adept on both sides of the scrum. The former New Zealand Schools representative was born in Gisborne and schooled at Marlborough Boys College. He was selected for the New Zealand Under 20s side for two consecutive seasons, captaining the side to a Junior World Championship title in 2015. A big defender and strong ball carrier, 21-year-old Moli has been a regular inclusion in the Gallagher Chiefs playing-23 this year. To date Atunaisa Moli has played 25 games for the Gallagher Chiefs.

The significance of this Saturday’s contest between the Gallagher Chiefs and the Brumbies will only truly be realised retrospectively. It could be the last time Dave Rennie leads his team into battle at FMG Stadium Waikato. It could be the last performance at home for a very special group of long-serving players that includes Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and James Lowe.

Gallagher Chiefs co-captain Sam Cane said: “As far as special games go, our match on Saturday afternoon against the Brumbies is right up there. It’s our final guaranteed game at home this season and I’d love for thousands of our loyal fans to join me in the stands to honour Rens, Aaron and the boys who are leaving at the end of this season. Let’s give them a turnout befitting the massive contribution they’ve made to our Club.”
Whether the Gallagher Chiefs play on home soil again this season is unknown, but some things are certain. It will be Stephen ‘Beaver’ Donald’s 100th Investec Super Rugby competition game when he takes the field against the Brumbies on Saturday night. Having captained the Chiefs in International fixtures against Wales in 2016 and the British & Irish Lions last month, Donald has already celebrated his century milestone with the Club.

The result of Saturday’s game will also ultimately decide the Gallagher Chiefs quarterfinals opponent. Currently there are two scenarios; the preference sees the Gallagher Chiefs pack their bags next Wednesday for Canberra to take on Australia’s best Super Rugby side, the Brumbies. The appeal of this scenario is solely due to the reduced travel time. To secure this, the Chiefs must defeat the Brumbies this weekend and in the later game, the Crusaders must draw with or beat the Hurricanes. The second scenario sees the Gallagher Chiefs depart for Cape Town a mere seven hours after their match this Saturday to play the Stormers.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Brumbies at 5.15pm this Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato:

1. Kane Hames (22)
2. Nathan Harris (28)
3. Nepo Laulala (12)
4. Michael Allardice (21)
5. Mitchell Brown (15)
6. Liam Messam (160)
7. Lachlan Boshier (16)
8. Michael Leitch (31)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (80)
10. Aaron Cruden (86) - Captain
11. James Lowe (50)
12. Charlie Ngatai (41)
13. Alex Nankivell (3)
14. Solomon Alaimalo (7)
15. Damian McKenzie (47)

RESERVES:

16. Liam Polwart (3)
17. Aidan Ross (3)
18. Atu Moli (25)
19. Tom Sanders (20)
20. Mitchell Karpik (6)
21. Finlay Christie (7)
22. Stephen Donald (101)
23. Shaun Stevenson (22)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Glen Fisiiahi, Sam McNicol, Toni Pulu, Taleni Seu and Dominic Bird.

Head coach Dave Rennie has opted to rest hard-working All Blacks Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick and Anton Lienert-Brown to refresh them for playoffs next weekend. Tim Nanai-Williams will rejoin the side next week following his commitments with the Samoan national team.

The Gallagher Chiefs will wear black armbands on Saturday to acknowledge the passing of Ron Hendl - a wonderful supporter, long-standing sponsor and member of the Chiefs whanau.

The Gallagher Chiefs play the Brumbies at 5.15pm this Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato. Get your friends and family together and join thousands of passionate Chiefs fans for an exhilarating afternoon of rugby. Tickets are available from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

This evening, the Chiefs family joined together to celebrate the 2017 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 2017 award winners are:

University of Waikato Development Taua Player Award: Luteru Laulala

Generation Homes Under 20’s Player Award: Luke Jacobson

Rookie of the year: Solomon Alaimalo

Fans Player of the Year: James Lowe

Coaches Player of the Year: Damian McKenzie

Players Player of the Year: Brodie Retallick

Chiefs Mana Kotiate: Liam Messam

For only the second time in Chiefs history in a fitting tribute, head coach Dave Rennie was awarded the Chiefs Tohunga lifetime award.

This Saturday, the Gallagher Chiefs will play their last home game of the regular season against Australian conference winners the Brumbies at FMG Stadium Waikato.  The game kicks off at 5:15pm. Tickets are available online here. 

The British & Irish Lions have proven too strong for the Gallagher Chiefs, running away with a 34-6 win in an historic first ever meeting between the two sides at FMG Stadium Waikato.

With several All Blacks and other front line players unavailable, the Gallagher Chiefs depth was tested and, although able to match the Lions for large parts of a physical match, some of their best running rugby on the tour so far saw the Lions push on to claim an impressive victory.

The momentous occasion, in front of a whopping crowd of 29,974, was proceeded by the Gallagher Chiefs haka which kicked the already electric atmosphere up another gear and set the scene for a wonderful sporting occasion.

Early signs were good from the home side with captain Stephen Donald producing some long and accurate kicks for good field position. But errors at lineout time, which would prove to be a theme throughout the evening, cost the Gallagher Chiefs the chance to open the scoring.

The Lions responded with a strong period on attack but some aggressive defence from a fired up Gallagher Chiefs unit put a stop to that, with a penalty from Welsh first five Dan Biggar the only scoring in the opening 10 minutes.

A late shoulder charge from Lions prop Joe Marler then resulted in a yellow card but the Gallagher Chiefs were unable to take advantage, with the Lions working downfield and coming away with a second Biggar penalty.

At the 20-minute mark the Gallagher Chiefs finally got themselves on the scoreboard with Donald’s first shot at goal a successful penalty from right in front of the posts.

It didn’t take long for the Lions to reassert their dominance as a patient build up saw them eventually crack the Gallagher Chiefs defence with wing Jack Nowell jumping over a ruck close to the line for the first try.

Biggar added the extras to push the advantage out to 13-3, with the Lions continuing to threaten following the Nowell try, even turning down a shot at goal to go for more points, but this time the Gallagher Chiefs defence was up the task.

Towards the end of the first half a late flurry of attack from the Gallagher Chiefs was rewarded with a second Donald penalty, and the hosts would have been happy to head into the break trailing by just seven.

The Gallagher Chiefs came out from the halftime break fired up and enjoyed the better of the first 10 minutes with some more big hits on defence and breaks up field getting the home crowd excited.

Eventually the big Lions forwards rumbled their way back towards the Gallagher Chiefs line and, despite more good defence stopping wave after wave of attack, referee Jerome Garces finally lost his patience and awarded a penalty try and a yellow card to loose forward Mitchell Brown.

A strong period from the Gallagher Chiefs then ended in a try at the other end to effectively finish off the contest. It was another poor lineout which cost the Gallagher Chiefs, as the tourists snaffled possession and went the length of the field with Nowell finishing off for his second and arguably the Lions’ best try of the tour.

Looking to work their way back into the contest, the Gallagher Chiefs threw caution to the wind as they looked to attack from their own 22 but a kick return from near halfway ended in nicely worked try to centre Jared Payne. Biggar maintained his perfect record off the tee to blow the lead out to 34-6 with still quarter of an hour to play.

To their credit the Gallagher Chiefs kept fighting, and some fresh legs off the bench gave some brief moments of attacking brilliance, but they were unable to break down the Lions defence as the visitors came away from their trip to Hamilton with a convincing win.

Gallagher Chiefs 6 (Stephen Donald 2 pens) British & Irish Lions 34 (Jack Nowell 2, Jared Payne tries, penalty try; Dan Biggar 3 cons, 2 pens) HT: 6-13.

The Gallagher Chiefs now shift their focus to the remainder of the Super Rugby season which is set to resume after international break on Saturday 15 July with a home game against the Brumbies at FMG Stadium Waikato (kick off 5.15pm).