While the Chiefs may have lost Sam Cane for the remainder of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season, the return of one of last year’s stars could help plug the gap left by their co-captain.
Lachlan Boshier, who was perhaps the form player in the early stages of Super Rugby in 2021 and considered extremely unlucky to miss out on an All Blacks call-up, is finally fit to take the field, having missed the Chiefs’ opening four matches.
Boshier was the Chiefs’ third busiest player last year, featuring in 10 of their 12 matches and clocking up 770 minutes throughout the season. This year, a niggly foot issue has plagued the openside flanker since the pre-season, which has prevented the 26-year-old from further staking a claim for national selection.
Cane’s pectoral injury, suffered during his side’s surprise victory over the Blues, will sideline him for up to six months, creating an absence in the starting lineups for both the Chiefs and the All Blacks.
There are plenty of options that the national side could employ, including Ardie Savea and Du’Plessis Kirif, who both featured in last year’s squad, while Boshier will also be hoping that a string of exceptional performances over the coming months could also catapult him into the frame.
Closer to home, he’ll be competing to wear the No 7 jersey with Mitch Karpik – who’s also been sidelined for much of 2021 – as well as Luke Jacobson.
Former All Black Jacobson has started the season in impeccable form as the Chiefs’ eighth-man but dabbled at openside flanker for Waikato last year. While it may not be his best position on the park, it would allow Boshier to return to play via the bench. Peter Gus-Sowakula, who also returned to the action from injury via the bench against the Blues two weeks ago, could then slot back into his preferred No 8 jersey.
Assistant Neil Barnes has remained coy ahead of Thursday’s team naming, but suggested that they were mulling over multiple possibilities.
“When you pick a squad, you want people that can shift into other positions,” he said. “So we’ve got what we think is the best option for this week starting. So, you’ll have to wait and see who that is.
“It hurts not having Sam with us, he’s one of the best in the world. But we’ve got some pretty capable boys to fill in his shoes.”
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While Boshier started off last season as the form openside flanker in Super Rugby prior to the COVID-enforced stoppage, securing 13 penalties for his side throughout the opening six rounds, he didn’t have quite as much luck once the NZ-only competition got underway.
That was no doubt in part due to the new law interpretations adopted by officials, which everyone struggled to come to terms with
“They stuffed around with the laws last year and it put a dent in the game,” Boshier told the NZ Herald earlier this year.
“It was frustrating the way they played around with the breakdown. It took a few games to get right.
“I don’t know why they’re trying to change things so much. At the start of Super Rugby Aotearoa they brought in all these new law interpretations and then halfway through it’s back to normal. Mentally that drains you as well – it becomes frustrating.”
Boshier was also afforded few weekends off throughout the season. The Chiefs’ injury list was always lengthy and the side were desperate for results, while Taranaki also struggled in the provincial competition. Ultimately, Boshier finished the year with the sixth-most minutes played of any Kiwi – and the second-most of any forward.
“The body was pretty beaten up,” Boshier told RugbyPass ahead of this year’s kick-off. “First and foremost this recent break was about resting up and getting it right again because there is still plenty for me to improve on.”
A pair of Super Rugby stars have weighed in on the debate on who should fill in for Sam Cane as All Blacks captain over the coming months. https://t.co/Rvp3IxJYd3
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 7, 2021
Now, entering the competition six weeks behind everyone else, he may be a little bit rusty – but he’ll be physically and mentally refreshed, which can only bode well for his selection chances at all levels of the game.
Boshier was given various work-ons throughout last season in order to take his game up a notch, and the latter half of Super Rugby Aotearoa presents the perfect opportunity for the breakdown tyro to perfect his art.
It’s could prove the making of Boshier – and it’s also great for the Chiefs, given their co-captain’s recent invalidation.
Boshier isn’t the only injury returnee for the Hamilton-based side either. Prop Sione Mafileo, locks Tupou Vaa’i and Josh Lord, and outside backs Etene Nanai-Seturo, Jonah Lowe and Baily Sullivan are all once again available for selection ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Highlanders.
Vaa’i, Nanai-Seturo and Lowe all have solid chances of slotting straight back into the starting side, meaning McMillan will likely unveil a host of changes to the team on Thursday afternoon.
The big question, of course, is if Lachlan Boshier will be one of those changes.
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