Chiefs wing finding form at the right time of the season
Christopher Reive / NZ Herald
It’s not often an individual perfectly personifies a team’s season, but Chiefs outside back Shaun Stevenson has done exactly that.
After a dismal start to the season culminating in a 30-15 embarrassment at home against the Sunwolves, Stevenson found himself fall out of favour.
But, after six weeks of failing to make the first team, injuries and player unavailability saw the 22-year-old get another chance. This weekend, he’ll line up on the wing for the Chiefs in the playoffs.
Since returning to the side first on the bench and, in recent weeks, among the starting side, Stevenson has been a standout performer for the team as they won four of their past five games.
“He’s clearly a quality player and the future of the Chiefs, but like a lot of players we weren’t hitting our straps early on and he found himself on the sideline,” Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson said.
“But like a lot of guys, he worked his way back in through hard work and taking opportunities. One thing we’re aware of is we’re performing really well as a team, because individuals are playing well.
“It’s great to see someone like him performing well and the team is reaping the rewards of it – he’s one of many clearly … there’s a lot of guys who are individually putting their hands up.”
Stevenson will line up in a settled Chiefs side, with just one change from the team who decimated the Rebels in Melbourne a week ago. Tumua Manu will start alongside Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield with Alex Nankivell under an injury cloud. Should Nankivell be cleared, he’ll take a spot on the bench; with Ataata Moeakiola taking the bench role should Nankivell be ruled out.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed but we’re not sure to be fair. It’s 50-50,” Matson said of Nankivell’s chances of being cleared.
“We’re feeling pretty well the way we’ve travelled and we’re pretty excited about the quarterfinal. A month ago it was a bit of a long shot, but now we’ve got a chance.”
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