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Chiefs firm in their belief for semifinal

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Lynn McConnell     28 Jul 2017     Getty Images

Assistant coach Neil Barnes said winning the physical battles in the game would be crucial for the Chiefs, and that was no different whether it was the Crusaders, the Hurricanes or the Highlanders.

QUICK TAP: CHIEFS READY FOR EPIC BATTLE UPFRONT IN SEMIFINAL

"We'll be going down there trying to achieve that and if you can get some front foot ball and win the contact area then your game will start to hum but unless you do that it's going to be a slog out," he said.

The side had come through their travel recovery well and were in the best possible condition to win a semifinal at the weekend and their Thursday training session had been very positive, he said.

And it was done in wet, slippery conditions similar to those expected in Christchurch.

While the surface at AMI Stadium would be soft underfoot, Barnes didn't see that being a problem.

Charlie Ngatai has returned to the side after injury, replacing Stephen Donald who is on the bench. Tim Nanai-Williams has also been named on the wing ahead of Solomon Alaimalo and that came down to the experience of 84 appearances that he brought to the side.

There had been discussion on a bigger player like Alaimalo being needed to cope with the likes of Seta Tamanivalu and it had been a tight decision, but Nanai-Williams' experience was the key, he said.
"It's tough when you get to the last games of the season but it's positive in a sense because there are some very good players to choose from," he said.

"If you want to be winning semifinals you need to be picking from the very best," he said, and it also applied in the mid-field with Ngatai being preferred to partner Anton Lienert-Brown.

"Having options like we've got at the moment has been awesome," he said.

In the pack Mitchell Brown was retained at lock ahead of Dominic Bird because he commanded his place as a result of his work rate in games which complemented the improving form of loose forwards Liam Messam and Michael Leitch.

Barnes wasn't concerned about conceding ground at the set-piece with Brown preferred. Many people wouldn't appreciate the contribution he made in that area, he said, and there wasn't a lot of set-piece play in the game anyway. He could compete in the lineout, in scrums he contributed as much as anyone else and his defensive play was strong.

"We've got a lot of respect for the Crusaders lineout but it doesn't rattle us at all we've just got to make sure we do our job properly," he said.

Barnes felt the Chiefs would be more accurate in their tactical kicking through halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and first five-eighths Aaron Cruden than the Highlanders achieved in the quarter-final. They were All Blacks and confident players who would play it as they saw it.