20 May 2009
Excitement builds in Hamilton
Chiefs captain Mils Muliaina admits it is difficult to keep excitement at bay as his side eagerly awaits its first Rebel Sport Super 14 home semi-final to be played against the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium on Friday night.
It will be the second time the franchise has ever reached the semi-finals and the pressure is on as rugby fever hits the streets of Hamilton and ticket-sales soar.
Muliaina was part of the Blues outfit that won the competition in 2003 but said for most of the players it will be their first taste of semi-finals rugby and they must stay focused ahead of Friday night's challenge.
"We've had to contain some of our excitement, obviously Hamilton being a very small town there are a lot of people here wishing us luck who are very excited about the occasion on Friday," said the 28-year-old fullback.
"We've got to try and contain that the best we can and not play the game yet, but it's pretty hard when it's your first home semi-final and I know the guys have busted their guts out to get this far.
"We're not content to make it just this far, we want to go all the way."
The Chiefs will want to repeat their performance of two weeks ago when they defeated the Hurricanes 16-8 in a top-of-the-table clash in Hamilton.
That game saw the Hurricanes blow several scoring opportunities and subsequently the win, so they are expected to be a much tighter unit come Friday evening and Muliaina knows just how tough they will be.
"We know that they'll come fired up because we probably had the edge on them at the breakdown last time we met so we know they're going to be a fired up team, they showed that against the Reds," said Muliaina.
"We had a day off yesterday [Tuesday] and that was good for the guys so now it's about getting our bodies right and getting the details right that we need to ahead of the game.
"We're certainly well recovered and we're honestly looking really forward to this opportunity."
The Chiefs have been hampered with some bad news ahead of the fixture however with star centre Richard Kahui opting out of the clash with a calf injury moving Dwayne Sweeney into the midfield.
Sweeney, whose defence has been questionable throughout his career, will have his hands more than full against the Hurricanes midfield duo of All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
Sweeney however, is excited at being given the opportunity and is not overly worried about his defensive duties ahead of the match and is promising to hit back at the Hurricanes with some attack of his own.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity, it's obviously a big occasion for the team and Richie's obviously a massive loss for us," he said.
"I'm trying not to really worry too much about trying to repeat what Richie does and I'll try and bring my own influence to the game.
"Probably the biggest thing for us to do is to not get too caught up in what they're [Nonu and Smith] going to do and to try and put our own influence into the game.
"Obviously we'll be on our toes because they're both class players but we want to take the game to them a little bit as well."