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Chiefs reward breakthrough midfielder with new contract

By Ned Lester
Daniel Rona with the ball in hand for the Chiefs. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

With injuries sidelining their top midfield options, a promising start to the Chiefs’ 2023 season looked to be on the ropes, that was until Daniel Rona stepped up and showed out.

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All Blacks Quinn Tupaea and Anton Lienert-Brown have each been out injured for the Chiefs in 2023, the former having not touched the pitch at all while rehabbing an ACL injury suffered in last year’s Bledisloe Cup match. Add to that All Blacks XV standout Alex Nankivell’s absence and the midfield stocks looked to be running thin in Waikato.

Daniel Rona began 2023 as a concreter and was initially only brought into the Chiefs environment on a 30-day training contract, but on Friday revealed he has now put pen to paper on a three-year deal.

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“I think it will come out next week,” Rona told SENZ The Run Home. “I’m lucky enough to have signed on (with the Chiefs) for the next three years.

“I have always wanted to be a Chief and when they came to me and gave me the opportunity to sign on, I was keen as.

“I don’t want to go anywhere else so we just got it done.”

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The opportunity to start in the Chiefs’ No 13 jersey, usually reserved for 59-cap All Black Anton Lienert-Brown or soon-to-be Munster centre Alex Nankivell, was unexpected for Rona, but an opportunity the 23-year-old has certainly made the most of.

Initially, Rona’s Super Rugby quality came through in his defence, with subtle work on attack allowing the Chiefs’ stars to shine out wide. But, against the Highlanders he put more of his skillset on display, placing an incredible chip kick into the 22 where only Shaun Stevenson could get it for one of the try-assists of the season, before claiming two tries himself.

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“It definitely hasn’t been easy,” Rona said, reflecting on his Super Rugby journey. “It took me quite a few weeks to get used to the workload and the physicality. I’ve started to come right but I’m just loving being in (the thick) of it at the moment.

“I’m going to keep putting my best foot forward.”

The table-topping Chiefs opted to keep Rona in the starting lineup for Anton Lienert-Brown’s return, playing the All Black at inside centre while bringing Alex Nankivell off the bench against the Highlanders. Coach Clayton McMillan has since returned to his starting combination of Lienert-Brown and Nankivell.

Fixture
Rugby Championship
New Zealand
35 - 20
Full-time
South Africa
All Stats and Data

Points Flow Chart

New Zealand win +15
Time in lead
77
Mins in lead
0
96%
% Of Game In Lead
0%
60%
Possession Last 10 min
40%
5
Points Last 10 min
5

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
3.6
8
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2.4
7
Entries

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
2
Draws
0
Wins
3
Average Points scored
20
23
First try wins
60%
Home team wins
40%

Team Form

Last 5 Games

4
Wins
4
1
Streak
4
36
Tries Scored
13
193
Points Difference
29
5/5
First Try
2/5
3/5
First Points
2/5
4/5
Race To 10 Points
3/5
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