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Why managing All Blacks’ rest policy hasn’t been ‘tricky’ for Chiefs

By Finn Morton
Sam Cane with ball in hand for the Chiefs. Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images

Going into the business end of this year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign, the Chiefs are exactly where they want to be.


With three rounds left in the regular season, the Hamilton-based franchise hold a commanding lead at the top of the ladder. The Chiefs are five-points clear of the second-placed Brumbies, and have a significantly better points differential.

The Queensland Reds may have shocked the ladder-leaders in New Plymouth last week, but aside from that, they’ve been sensational in 2023.

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Many rugby fans would consider the Chiefs the favourites for Super Rugby Pacific glory – and with good reason.

While their form has been sublime, it’s their planning and preparation off the field that may serve them well late in the regular season.

Ahead of their clash with the high-flying Hurricanes on Saturday, the Chiefs named their team for the blockbuster New Zealand derby at FMG Stadium.

All Blacks Sam Cane, Brad Weber, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Brodie Retallick are among the players returning from their mandatory rests. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are missing some of their key players.


Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan explained why managing the All Blacks’ mandatory rests hasn’t been “tricky at all” this season.

“Not that tricky at all,” McMillan said, as reported by Newshub. “We all know what we need to deal with at the beginning the season, we put a lot of time and effort into identifying games.

“Our approach this year is to get them all out in two games, which is a different approach from what we did in previous years, where we scattered them.

“Most of the players are going to have at least two breaks over the course of the season, over and above the bye week, so instead of spreading the All Blacks out over 3-4 games, we just elected to do it in two – the Drua earlier on and the Reds last week.


“It was either last week or this week, and it wasn’t any reflection of the quality we thought the Reds were going to bring to the table, but we just thought the team would be good enough to get the job done.”

The Chiefs have been boosted by the return of key All Blacks, but the Hurricanes haven’t been so lucky.

Coming off a big win over Moana Pasifika in round 13, the Canes will be without captain Ardie Savea, Tyrel Lomax and Jordie Barrett this weekend.

The three All Blacks have been rested this week, which means they’ll be available for the final two regular season fixtures against the Blues and Crusaders.

“They’re in the same boat as us, they have to pick an opposition to rest some guys and that’s what we all have to do,” he added.

“Given the run that they’ve got, it was always going to be intriguing to see which game that was.


“It doesn’t change anything for us. They put 23 guys out there in whatever colour jersey they wear and that’s the Hurricanes, and we’re preparing for that.

“There’s an element of strategy that’s involved in that sort of stuff and losing to the Reds last week, it sucked because we lost, but the positive was that one of the teams that are around us didn’t take those points off of us.

“If you’re the Hurricanes and you’re deciding what game to give your All Blacks a rest, you need a factor those sorts of things into your decision-making.

“We’re probably enough ahead that it becomes a case of where you’re going to hedge your bets – it’s a game of chess.”

The derby between the Chiefs and Hurricanes will get underway at 7.05pm NZST at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium on Saturday.


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