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Jacobson takes captain's armband for Chiefs as Ratima earns first start

By Tom Vinicombe
Luke Jacobson. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

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Coach Clayton McMillan has made 10 changes to the Chiefs’ starting line-up for their rematch with Moana Pasifika on Saturday afternoon.

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Last time the two sides butted heads, the Chiefs ran away with a 59-12 victory. While the Pacific Islanders have come on leaps and bounds in the weeks since, McMillan has still looked to give minutes to some of the less experienced members of his squad, knowing full well that there are potentially nine more matches to play on the trot following this weekend.

All Blacks Samisoni Taukei’aho, Sam Cane and Quinn Tupaea have all been given a week off, as well as the in-form Pita Gus Sowakula, while Brad Weber drops to the bench. With co-captains Cane and Weber both absent from the run-on side, Luke Jacobson has been handed captaincy duties for the second time in his Chiefs career after leading the team to a 36-26 win over the Rebels last season.

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In the front row, Aidan Ross and Taukei’aho have been replaced by Ollie Norris and Bradley Slater, while Angus Ta’avao holds down duties on the tighthead side of the scrum.

Tupou Vaa’i will make his first appearance at lock since the Chiefs’ fourth-round clash with the Crusaders and will partner Josh Lord – with the two resuming their partnership from last year’s end-of-year All Blacks tour game against Italy for the first time. The man who wore the No 5 jersey last weekend, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, drops to the reserves.

With Jacobson taking over from Sowakula at the back of the scrum, Mitch Brown and Kaylum Boshier will combine on the flanks. Brown will make his first appearance of the season after spending the first half of the campaign sidelined through injury.

21-year-old Cortez Ratima takes over at halfback for his first start at Super Rugby level and will pair up with Bryn Gatland. There’s a new combination in the midfield thanks to Tupaea’s absence coupled with a long-term injury suffered by Anton Lienert-Brown, Rameka Poihipi and Alex Nankivell wearing the No 12 and 13 jerseys, respectively.

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In the outside backs, Etene Nanai-Seturo will make his fourth appearance in a row on the left wing with Shaun Stevenson taking over from Jonah Lowe on the right. Chase Tiatia once again gets the nod at fullback.

Tyrone Thompson, Ross and George Dyer will cover the front row via the bench while Samipeni Finau will do the same for the loose forwards. Rivez Reihana and Lowe make up the final two members of the match-day 23.

While McMillan had never planned to make huge changes for the final game of the Chiefs’ NZ fixtures, it’s a move that’s been forced thanks to the rejigged draw that saw them lose their mid-season bye.

“That sort of changed the landscape quite a lot, that’s why we’ve been forced, to a certain extent, to rest those guys this week,” McMillan said.

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“They’ve carried big loads, and given the injuries that we’ve had, we’ve just had to find some space somewhere before we head into the next big block of games.”

Saturday’s match kicks off at 4:35pm NZT and the Chiefs will be hoping to earn their first home win of the season after dropping matches against the Crusaders and Blues.

Chiefs: Chase Tiatia, Shaun Stevenson, Alex Nankivell, Rameka Poihipi, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Bryn Gatland, Cortez Ratima, Luke Jacobson, Kaylum Boshier, Mitch Brown, Tupou Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Angus Ta’avao, Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris. Reserves: Tyrone Thompson, Aidan Ross, George Dyer, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Samipeni Finau, Brad Weber, Rivez Reihana, Jonah Lowe.

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