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Robbie Deans’ Wild Knights thump understrength Chiefs in Japan

By Finn Morton
Chiefs players react after the preseason match between Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights and Chiefs at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium on February 4, 2024 in Kumagaya, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

They may be one of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific title favourites but an understrength Chiefs side has been handed a pre-season wake-up call against Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan.


Without the likes of captain Luke Jacobson, playmaker Damian McKenzie and try-scoring machine Shaun Stevenson, the Chiefs struggled to keep up as they were handed a heavy 38-14 defeat in front of 7,561 supporters at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium on Sunday.

It was always going to be a tough start to the year for the Hamilton-based franchise as they came up against the undefeated Japan Rugby League One juggernaut. The Wild Knights named a star-studded side, too, which included two two-time Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks.

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South African duo Lood de Jager and Damian de Allende ran out in the No. 5 and 12 jerseys respectively, while the ever-dangerous Wallaby Marika Koroibete lined up on the left wing. Former Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier was also among the Japanese clubs’ ranks.

Chiefs flyhalf Josh Ioane had the first opportunity to strike, but a wayward penalty attempt in the third minute kept the scores locked at nil-all. That proved to be a costly mistake.

Atsushi Sakate opened the scoring with a try in the 15th minute, and Taiki Koyama also crossed for a five-pointer midway through the first term to give the hosts a comfortable 14-nil lead at the break.

Already with their backs up against the ropes, the Chiefs needed to score first after the interval– but they couldn’t. Flyhalf Rikiya Matsuda extended the Wild Knights’ lead to 17.


Ioane breathed some new life into the Chiefs, if only for a short period, with a converted try of his own in the 52nd minute, but it was practically all the Wild Knights from there.

Wallaby Koroibete cut in-between two defenders to score – much to the delight of the home fans – and other scores to Mark Abbott and Kyohei Yamasawa completed the 24-point rout in favour of coach Robbie Deans’ men.


“I didn’t think that I’d face the Chiefs haka after being involved with the Chiefs, but it’s awesome to see at the start of the game,” former Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier said after starring for the Wild Knights, as reported by Kyodo News.

“It was good to have a tough game today. We’ve got a few more tough games coming up, so it was good to get the bodies ready.”


The Chiefs will look to bounce back against Kubota Spears in Japan on Saturday evening (6:30 pm NZT). This squad includes the likes of former All Black Dane Coles, ex-Wallaby Bernard Foley and Welsh outside back Liam Williams.


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Wayneo 170 days ago

Well, slap me with a dead fish. Did not expect this result.

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