Chiefs hoping big home crowd can spur them to fifth consecutive victory

The Chiefs are hoping for another big home crowd when they face the Hurricanes in Hamilton this weekend, as they push for a finals berth.

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Covid restrictions hit the franchise hard but they are hoping a big crowd this week can help. Source: 1 NEWS

The Waikato franchise are on a four-game winning streak, the best in Super Rugby so far this year, and coming off the back of a year without a win.

Interest in the side has rocketed, with nearly 20,000 in the stands last Saturday.

"We had a lot of outside noise last year...the true fans stuck with us," halfback Brad Weber said.

But another big turnout this Friday is crucial for the franchise's finances, after starting the home season back in March under Level 2 restrictions.

"I don't think we'll ever quite make up for the loss of the Highlanders game," Chiefs CEO Michael Collins said.

"We're still some distance from hitting that budgeted figure."

Staying on a winning run will help, something that was inconceivable a month ago.

Part of the turnaround started in an all-in review at the end of last season.

"We identified areas we needed shifts in and people stuck to their word," Weber said.

No matter what, Warren Gatland will return as head coach next year and in 2023, with Clayton McMillan as his assistant.

"I always knew coming into this it was always going to be an interim role," McMillan said.

"One of the real attractions for me was working alongside a man of that experience, absolutely nothing has changed."

McMillan has made six changes to his matchday squad for Friday's clash against the Hurricanes.

Luke Jacobson has been ruled out with concussion and will be replaced by Pita Gus Sowakula.

Bryn Gatland will start at first-five, Damien McKenzie returning to fullback.

Midfielder Rameka Poihipi will be hoping to make his debut off the bench.

Dane Coles will lead the Hurricanes in the absence of the injured Ardie Savea after the veteran hooker commit to the club for the next two years earlier this week.

Scott Scrafton returns at lock while Du'Plessis Kirifi replaces Savea at flanker. Wing Salesi Rayasi also makes a return with Wes Goosen moving to the opposite wing.

Chiefs: 15 Damien McKenzie, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa'i, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 1 Aidan Ross.

Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Samipeni Finau, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Rameka Poihipi, 23 Chase Tiatia.

Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Ruben Love, 9 Luke Campbell, 8 Devan Flanders, 7 Du'Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Xavier Numia.

Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Pouri Rakere-Stones, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Brayden Iose, 22 Cam Roigard, 23 Billy Proctor.