Super Rugby Aotearoa: Sam Cane out of Chiefs' clash with Blues

The Chiefs will again be without linchpin Sam Cane, when they return home to take on the Blues in Hamilton on Saturday.

The newly minted All Blacks captain is still nursing the lower back strain that forced him out of the Chiefs' 28-27 loss to the Highlanders in the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa last weekend. Halfback Brad Weber retains the captaincy in his absence.

"He's had this issue with his back tightening up," says coach Warren Gatland. "It comes right, but then it just flares up again.

"We're making sure we take precautions with it. On Tuesday, it felt good, but then he did some contact and it's tightened up a bit.

"Whether it's a disc issue that he needs to see someone about or whether it needs an injection..."

Last week, the Chiefs suggested the injury wasn't serious and were confident he'd be ready to return against the Blues, but Gatland's uncertainty, combined with Cane's long list of injuries in recent years, suggests there may be more cause for concern than initially thought.

"He's disppointed, but we just want to make sure that we get that right and that we're not taking any risks with him."

The most notable change to last weekend's side is the promotion of Aaron Cruden from the bench to start in the No.10 jersey, with Kaleb Trask shifting to the bench.

"We were pleased with Kaleb Trask," Gatland clarifies. "We thought he did really well at 10, but we're just bringing the experience of Aaron Cruden back into the side." 

Lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi also moves from the reserves into the run-on team to replace injured Mitchell Brown ins the second row - the only change to the starting forward pack.

Super Rugby Aotearoa: Sam Cane out of Chiefs' clash with Blues
Photo credit: Getty/Newshub.

On the bench, the Chiefs add prop Reuben O'Neill, loose forward veteran Adam Thomson, rookie Lisati Milo-Harris and back Solomon Alaimalo.

Dropping out of the game-day squad are halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Ryan Coxon and Etene Nanai-Seturo.

Gatland says his troops are raring to recitify the wrongs of Dunedin in front of their home crowd and score consecutive victories over the Blues, whom they beat 37-29 at Eden Park back in January.

'Last week against the Highlanders, we weren’t clinical enough and they capitalised on those opportunities we gave them. This week, we need to be sharper and deliver a more dominant performance.

"The Blues have some great playmakers and will be a dangerous team. They performed well last week against the Hurricanes and will be hoping to back it up again."

The Chiefs have already sold 20,000 tickets for the 25,000 capacity FMG Stadium and Gatland says the team must do the occasion justice in their return to home soil.

"The guys are excited to run out to the field in front of what is expected to be a near capacity crowd. It is now up to us to deliver for them and show our thanks for their support."

Chiefs: 1-Aidan Ross, 2-Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3-Nepo Laulala, 4-Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 5-Tupou Vaa'i, 6-Luke Jacobson, 7-Lachlan Boshier, 8-Pita Gus Sowakula, 9-Brad Weber (c), 10-Aaron Cruden, 11-Sean Wainui, 12-Anton Lienert-Brown, 13-Quinn Tupaea, 14-Shaun Stevenson, 15-Damian McKenzie 

Reserves: 16-Bradley Slater, 17-Reuben O'Neill, 18-Ross Geldenhuys, 19-Adam Thomson, 20-Dylan Nel, 21-Lisati Milo-Harris, 22-Kaleb Trask, 23-Solomon Alaimalo 

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