Concussions and form a headache for Chiefs

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that while their mid-season form is a big concern the number of concussions his players have suffered has been a real headache.

The Chiefs have only won one match in their last six Super Rugby matches and have been overtaken in the New Zealand conference by the Hurricanes.

Last week the double Super Rugby champions lost 41-23 in Canberra to the Brumbies and it also resulted in three players having to leave the field for concussion testing.

Fortunately only Mahonri Schwalger failed to return to the playing field but the number of head knocks is a real concern for Rennie and his assistants.

The Chiefs were missing three players for the trip to Canberra due to concussion protocols and they are part of an 11 strong group that have tested the side’s depth throughout the season.

“It’s just bad luck,” said Rennie.

“It’s a collision sport – it happens – and our game gets more and more intense every year.”

“Liam Squire ran into a shoulder, Tawera (Kerr-Barlow) was making a desperate tackle and got his head in the wrong position (both last week), Ben Afeaki and Brodie (Retallick) clashed heads making a tackle (in week one),” Rennie said.

“It’s just a bit of bad luck.”

Stringent testing in the modern game has compounded the “luck” Rennie refers to and they have been brought in to ensure the players’ long-term health.

“There are a lot more precautions around it now and anyone with the slightest issue is generally taken off and assessed,” Rennie said.

“Maybe in my day, when I was playing, guys just stayed out there because we didn’t know any better.”

There is however light at the end of the tunnel for the Chiefs as both Kerr-Barlow and Squire are set to return for the champions this weekend against the Lions.

In further good news for the Chiefs who are aiming for the three-peat by winning a third straight title, Charlie Ngatai who has been missing since March is on the verge of a comeback.

In addition, James Lowe played for the Chiefs for the first time in a month against the Brumbies.

“Over the last few weeks we’ve had guys coming back in – you get two or three back but you lose two or three,” Rennie told APNZ.

“It’s kind of a revolving door but hopefully we’re starting to get numbers back.”

Rennie said that he was impressed with the impact that Super Rugby rookie Nathan Harris made when he came on for Mahonri Schwalger but he also acknowledged the importance of the veteran,”In the lineout, we’ve battled a bit, but Moe’s experienced. He’s a very good thrower and a very good scrummager.”

The Chiefs have only scored four tries in their last three games and aside from the problems in the set piece Rennie says he is aware of what is causing the problem.

“We’re making too many errors and they just don’t allow you to build and apply pressure.

“We’ve dug ourselves into a bit of a hole but, having said all that, we’re only one point behind the leader in our conference.”

“So our fate’s in our own hands but we need to get things going against the Lions this weekend.”

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