The Chiefs have called Ihaia West into their Super Rugby squad as injury cover, as the two-time defending champions are set to kick-off the season without Robbie Robinson, Gareth Anscombe and Tom Marshall. Robinson, Anscombe and Marshall are sidelined with respective hip, shoulder and thumb problems, while All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden is on his off-season break for another two weeks.
West was considered unlucky to miss a Super Rugby contract after a standout 2013 ITM Cup campaign with Hawke's Bay Magpies, for whom his form saw him selected by the New Zealand Maori All Blacks on their North American tour. He also has five caps for New Zealand Under-20 side.
"Certainly initially we sort of scratched our head a wee bit [as] he obviously had a pretty outstanding season for us," Magpies coach Craig Philpott told Radio Live. "But I guess also if you look at the quality of the [fly-halves] we've got in the country at the moment, and you go through each of the franchises they're all very good players as well."
Philpott is confident that West can play in whatever position the Chiefs require, saying the young fly-half has "played most of his rugby at 10 but he has had some opportunities at 15 both at club and ITM Cup so he is certainly developing that part of his game as well".
The Chiefs, meanwhile, hope Anscombe will miss only their opening two fixtures of the season.
Anscombe is recovering well from a double shoulder reconstruction, the fullback telling the New Zealand Herald: "Still a lot of work to be done obviously, but going in the right direction ... I've got a date in mind, I suppose, when I'd like to play but it's hard because you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself and rush it and injure yourself again. But I'm sure in training over the next few weeks I'll up the ante and I can pretty much get everything I need out of training to know whether I'm ready for a game."
Anscombe is aiming to return for the fixture against the Stormers on March 14, which would see him miss only two matches as the Chiefs have byes in rounds one and four.
"The movement's a lot better now and I can get to the top of my range so now it's about trying to get a bit of size on and trying to get a lot stronger because I've wasted away over the last six months," he said.