James Mortimer 23.Jul.2013Getty Images
An area of weakness?
Not any more, as Whitelock seems to improve with every outing, Romano is becoming physically abrasive to be one of the leading enforcers in the Crusaders pack, while there is another member of the group who has become a monster in the loose and in the air, and the defending Investec Champions will welcome back Brodie Retallick this weekend.
Little wonder that while Ali Williams was emotional when retiring, he was content that his replacements were up to the mark, if not a bit more able to throw their physicality around.
Sidelined with an ankle sprain, Retallick is still to be cleared to play, but his hopeful inclusion will be massive against a Crusaders pack that is firing at the right time of the season, and Chiefs forward’s coach Tom Coventry told the NZ Herald everyone, especially the Waikato based side, knew the challenge that was coming.
The Crusaders pack is perhaps leading the competition for form, and while all of them are capped All Blacks, at least half of them would stroll into a first choice pack for the World Champions, and that means that Coventry and the Chiefs have noticed their frontal assault on Super Rugby.
"Wey're playing well at the moment," Coventry said.
"The whole country knows that, the whole world does, they have an international pack.
The key for the match doesn’t seem to be who is the better team on paper, nor how well coached each side is, but rather who can turn up, with recent efforts between the two Kiwi heavyweights coming down the side that runs out with the most adrenaline flowing through their veins.
"We can be much better than we were in Christchurch (the Chiefs biggest loss this season) and we will be,” Coventry said.
“That was particularly disappointing because it was billed as a significant match but we didn't show up. We'll have to be at our best but we've done it in the past."
However the return of Retallick was a high point for the champions preparation.
"He's important to us," Coventry said.
"He's part of the engine room and a catalyst for all the good things we do.
“The driving play, work at the breakdowns, he's pretty uncompromising. His numbers in terms of work-rate are impressive and you've seen what he's done in the black jersey. He's been a constant for us."