Ngatai poised to usurp form Chief Donald

Jul 23, 2017 - 10:58 PM Coach Dave Rennie can't speak highly enough of veteran Chiefs back Stephen Donald, although a starting role in their Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders is no guarantee.

Donald, 33, was a stand-out attacker in the gritty 17-11 quarter-final win over the Stormers in a Cape Town.

In a game dominated by defence, second five-eighth Donald's two lengthy breaks in the first half stood out, turning back to the clock to his prime years as an All Blacks first five-eighth.

A facial cut forced him from the game but he is available for Saturday's showdown with the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Standing in his way could be Charlie Ngatai, who missed the trip to South Africa because of an ankle injury .

Rennie said Donald had been enormously influential on and off the park, surpassing the expectations of most commentators in his 11 appearances this season.

"He's been great for us. You know what you get from Beaver, he's going to ask some questions of the defence, he's going to run hard," Rennie said.

"I thought he was fantastic (in Cape Town) and that was the reason we brought him back.

"He's contributing nicely whether it's at 10 or 12 and he'll be involved in some way in our next game."

Donald and the Chiefs were due to arrive home in Hamilton in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Their travel-heavy play-off path mirrors last year, when they beat the Stormers in a Cape Town quarter-final before falling 25-9 to eventual champions the Hurricanes in a Wellington semi-final.

Rennie says they won't over-think their approach to recovery, believing the key to being physically ready for the Crusaders was quickly returning to regular sleep patterns.

"We're going to come home and make sure we do a better job than last year," he said.

"Do we make the guys sluggish by too much analysis and so-on? At least we're in New Zealand. It'll be nice to spend some time in our own beds."

Source: AAP

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