New heart trouble could rule Fruean out for Chiefs

Heart troubled centre Robbie Fruean could miss the Chiefs Super Rugby tour of Perth and South Africa due to a new problem with his heart.

Fruean had open-heart surgery last year to replace a faulty valve but worked his way back into fitness and featured in the opening round against his former team the Crusaders.

The former Crusaders centre started the season with a bang but against the Stormers on Friday he suffered a head knock and also suffered from a sped-up heartbeat, which left him short of breath.

The powerful centre had been on medication to control his heart from speeding up.

“We’ve got to check on that so our medics are talking to his specialist and that sort of thing just to come up with the best solution, and we’ll make a decision (on whether Fruean travels with the team to Perth) tomorrow,” head coach Dave Rennie told Fairfax NZ News on Sunday.

The Chiefs play the Western Force on Saturday before heading off to South Africa for matches against the Bulls and Cheetahs.

The double Super Rugby champions will take a traveling squad of 27 (increased this year from 26 with the addition of a fifth prop for the eight-man bench) and they will make the call on Fruean and tight head prop Ben Afeaki.

Afeaki suffered concussion in a head knock with Brodie Retallick in the season opener but has yet to pass a concussion test although Rennie did admit that Afeaki was feeling better than before and they were reasonably confident he would travel.

Winger James Lowe (medial cruciate ligament damage to his knee) and centre Charlie Ngatai (torn calf) have been ruled out of the tour.

Lowe is expected to miss up to six weeks while Ngatai looks set to be on the sidelines for six to eight weeks however flanker Sam Cane, halfback Augustine Pulu and No 8 Kane Thompson have recovered from knee injuries and are likely to travel.

Rennie said that playing in Perth first would work well for them as they are able to break up their travel on the way to South Africa.

“It’s similar timelines and a shorter trip (than going directly to South Africa) and we don’t have to leave till Tuesday. “

“Immediately after the game (against the Force) we jump on a plane about midnight which fits in with our sleep patterns and we are away for three weeks, so it’s an opportunity to get a bit of work done because the boys don’t have to go home at night.”

Rennie said that their bonus point victory over the Stormers was a good step up but that there was plenty of room for improvement as they could have put the Stormers away earlier in the match after going 24-6.

The Chiefs coach is expecting a tough match in Perth against the Force who have strung together their first back to back victories since April 2011.

“They have certainly clicked really well in the last couple of weeks,” Rennie said of the Force.

“All the talk was how they couldn’t score four-try bonus points and they’ve got two in two weeks. “

“They’ve made some real shifts,” Rennie said.

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