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Strengthened Chiefs set for strong finish

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Lynn McConnell     03 May 2017     Getty Images

Coach Dave Rennie said with so many players back and available for selection it felt like they had three teams at training on Tuesday. And that was valuable given the tough period they face following their bye next week. 

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They will play the Crusaders in Fiji, the Blues in Auckland, the Waratahs in Hamilton and the Hurricanes in Wellington before the June break.

"It certainly makes training more intense and there's a lot more competition for places. We've got ourselves into a pretty good position on the table. We're not firing as we want to but the key to winning this competition is having momentum and playing your best footy at the end of the year so that's what we're working towards," he said.

Heading the players returning from injuries was second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai who has fully recovered from concussion, and who played 80 minutes of club rugby at the weekend.

Rennie said he had worked hard to get himself back in shape and he was delighted for him because before his injury last year he felt he was the best player in Super Rugby.

Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow is also set to return relieving some of the stress on the position for the side. Utility Tim Nanai-Williams was another coming back while Johnny Faauli was off suspension and in the forwards lock Michael Allardyce and hooker Nathan Harris were back as well.

It is timely for the side as they attempt to recover the early form they showed but which had tapered off in recent weeks.
Against the Sunwolves last weekend, the Chiefs had gone into the game mindful of how much ball they had turned over a week earlier against the Force and were looking to improve on that effort. At 20-3 up they were happy with that and when up 27-10 in the second half they were in a position to put their foot on the Sunwolves' throat.

But their lineout work, which had been good all season, fell away and the Sunwolves came back. It had been frustrating but the game had served its purpose although Rennie said they would have wanted a better last 20 minutes.

The Sunwolves had defended well and their scrum had been a nuisance and with multiple resets the game had struggled to get out of second gear, he said.

"We're still adapting our game and you'll see a slightly different approach against the Reds again and it would be nice to put a team under pressure and put them away," he said.

The Reds were probably one of the best attacking sides in the competition, they were dangerous with the ball and they were mindful they were capable of playing from anywhere.

"We've got a lot of respect for their ability but we've got a lot of focus on trying to get our game going," he said.