Put the Waikato Draught on ice, because this Saturday fan favourite and inspirational team man Stephen ‘Beaver’ Donald will start in his 100th game for the Gallagher Chiefs. The 33-year-old will become just the fourth player in Chiefs history to achieve this rare feat, joining Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam and Hika Elliot in the exclusive milestone club.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said Donald deserves to run out in front of a vast and boisterous crowd when he takes the field against the Waratahs this Saturday.

“Stephen Donald’s already a Chiefs legend. Adored by his teammates and fans alike, he is a special and passionate Chiefs man who has had a prolific on-field career. Come and join the party, crack open a Waikato and help us raise a toast to Beaver, the hard-working good bugger” said Rennie.

The Gallagher Chiefs are thirsty for a win on home soil when they host the Waratahs at the earlier kickoff time of 5.05pm. Head coach Dave Rennie has made just two changes to the starting fifteen who recorded their first ever draw against the Blues at Eden Park last Friday. The changes see Stephen Donald don jersey 12 for his 100th match and speedster Toni Pulu start on the right wing. Of note in the reserves is the inclusion of 22-year-old Bay of Plenty hooker Liam Polwart. The former New Zealand Under 20s representative is line to make his Investec Super Rugby debut off the bench.

The sun is forecast to shine over an enthralling afternoon of rugby, kicking off at 2.40pm with Hamilton Boys High School playing Rotorua Boys High School in the University of Waikato Chiefs Cup final.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Waratahs at 5.05pm this Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato is:

1.            Kane Hames (20)

2.            Nathan Harris (26)

3.            Nepo Laulala (9)

4.            Dominic Bird (23)

5.            Brodie Retallick (82)

6.            Mitchell Brown (12)

7.            Sam Cane (co-captain) (91)

8.            Liam Messam (157)

9.            Tawera Kerr-Barlow (78)

10.         Aaron Cruden (co-captain) (84)

11.         James Lowe (48)

12.         Stephen Donald (99)

13.         Anton Lienert-Brown (36)

14.         Toni Pulu (20)

15.         Damian McKenzie (45)    

RESERVES:

16.         Liam Polwart**

17.         Siegfried Fisi’ihoi (22)

18.         Atu Moli (22)

19.         Taleni Seu (29)

20.         Mitchell Karpik (4)

21.         Jonathan Taumateine (5)

22.         Tim Nanai-Williams (82)

23.         Solomon Alaimalo (4)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut

Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Glen Fisiiahi, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol.

Stephen Donald is the ultimate teammate, so his 100th game serves as a fitting occasion to promote a very meaningful message. This Saturday the Chiefs Rugby Club is teaming up with MATES, a non-profit organisation which aims to bring kiwi communities closer together with a focus on empowering and supporting men to be positive family and community members.

The Chiefs are proud to have a long-standing relationship with MATES, so to support and raise awareness for the important work they are doing in our communities, the Gallagher Chiefs playing 23 will have ‘Be a good mate’ on the back of their warmup t-shirts in addition to other special mate-themed match day entertainment.

Tickets to this Saturday’s Round 15 fixture between the Gallagher Chiefs and the Waratahs can be purchased from ticketdirect.co.nz or 0800 4 CHIEFS.

The Gallagher Chiefs have kept their unbeaten streak against the Blues alive with a 16-16 draw at a wet Eden Park in Auckland – a first ever draw between the two local rivals.

Trailing 13-8 at halftime, the Gallagher Chiefs did well to fight their way back level, outscoring the Blues two tries to one, but late handling errors in the final few minutes from both sides prevented either team from snatching a late win.

A positive start from the Gallagher Chiefs saw them get on the scoreboard first, thanks to a well struck penalty from fullback Damian McKenzie, but Blues first five Piers Francis replied with a three-pointer of his own soon after.

The remainder of the opening quarter saw some bright moments, in particular good runs from halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and wing Tim Nanai-Williams, but neither side threatened to add further points.

As the half wore on it was the Blues who began to assert some dominance, enjoying plenty of possession and patiently working their way downfield.

From a scrum 30 metres out the hosts then made a couple of good gains over the advantage line and were able to finish the movement off when wing Rieko Ioane burst onto a short pass from a ruck five metres out to score the first try of the evening.

Francis’ conversion from wide out was good which opened up a 10-3 lead after half an hour of play.

A brilliant take from the kick off by wing James Lowe led to the Gallagher Chiefs’ best attacking period of the half, but the Blues defended 12 phases of pressure before winning a penalty to deny the visitors an instant reply.

With two minutes remaining in the first half, Francis landed a 45 metre penalty to extend the Blues’ advantage to 10 points.

But another Gallagher Chiefs win from their own kick off, this time by lock Brodie Retallick, gave them one last chance to attack before the break. Quick ball from the ruck saw McKenzie get the ball 40 metres out and he accelerated through a hole and raced away to score a brilliant solo try.

That was to be the last play of an exciting first half with the Blues going into the break with a five-point lead.

To start the second half, it was the Blues this time who benefited from the kick off as a Gallagher Chiefs knock on ended in a penalty which Francis converted for three more points.

As heavy rain began to fall at Eden Park, a good stint on attack from the Gallagher Chiefs finished with a scrum penalty and first five Aaron Cruden made no mistake from out in front.

A slippery playing surface started to disrupt some of the accuracy, but the desperation from both teams was clear and the match began to tighten up as it headed into the final quarter.

Out of nowhere, the Gallagher Chiefs then launched a counter attack from inside their own 22. Following a turnover, Lowe initially had a kick charged down but he regathered and took off downfield. McKenzie, in at first receiver, then produced a pin point cross kick for second five Johnny Fa’auli who raced away unmarked to tie the scores.

The Gallagher Chiefs defence was called on to stop another wave of attack from the home side, and at the end of it a reasonably simple penalty attempt from Francis was pushed wide.

Another good run from McKenzie then briefly had the Gallagher Chiefs into Blues territory again, but they were unable to make it count on this occasion.

A long clearing kick from replacement Shaun Stevenson with two minutes remaining gave the Gallagher Chiefs one last chance to steal the match, but the ball was lost in contact by both sides in the closing moments with the wet conditions having the final say.

Gallagher Chiefs 16 (Damian McKenzie, Johnny Fa’auli tries; pen, Aaron Cruden pen) Blues 16 (Reiko Ioane try; Piers Francis con, 3 pens) HT: 8-13.

The Gallagher Chiefs return to FMG Stadium Waikato next weekend for their Round 15 match against the Waratahs (Saturday 3 June, kick off 5:05pm). 

Dynamic utility back Tim Nanai-Williams and exciting forward Taleni Seu are the latest players to confirm their futures with the Gallagher Chiefs. Nanai-Williams, 27, has signed a one-year deal for 2018, while 23-year-old Seu has committed to the Chiefs for another two years through until 2019.

Colin Cooper, who will succeed Dave Rennie as head coach of the Gallagher Chiefs from 2018 said: “I’m really pleased to have Tim and Taleni locked in for next season. Tim brings a huge amount of experience which makes him a real asset on-field and also as a mentor for our younger players coming through. He’s a versatile player who is able to cover most positions in the backline, plus he’s calm under pressure and gives the team continuity going forward.

“Taleni is an explosive, exciting player with a lot of x-factor. He’s a big man who can play a number of positions covering lock and loose-forward, and he’s very quick. Being in just his second year of Super Rugby, I’m excited to see him fulfill his potential in the coming years.”

Nanai-Williams said: “I’m really excited to sign with the Chiefs for 2018. This team has been a big part of my life over the past eight years, so I was very keen to stay on for another season and be involved in the next era of the Chiefs with Coops. For my young family, it’s great to give them some stability for the next 12 months and to keep challenging myself in an outstanding environment.”

Auckland-born Seu cited the Chiefs environment as a key reason in his decision to re-sign with the Club.

“I’m really happy to re-sign with the Chiefs for another two seasons. This Club gave me my first opportunity which is something I am very grateful for. I want to stay because I’ve enjoyed my time here so far - I really like the culture. It’s challenging but also fun and I’m excited to keep growing as a person and a player here.”

Tim Nanai-Williams made his Super Rugby debut against the Sharks in 2010 as Chief #180. The evasive Counties Manukau utility back has been a consistent performer in the Chiefs jersey, accruing 81 caps over seven seasons to date. Nanai-Williams spent 2015 in Japan, but rejoined the Gallagher Chiefs for the 2017 season.

At 1.82m and 87kg, Nanai-Williams is equally adept at sevens as he is at the 15-a-side game. The Manurewa High School alumnus represented both New Zealand and Samoa in sevens and also played for the latter in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Chief #262 Taleni Seu is the second-youngest of 12 children to his Niuean Tongan mother and Niuean Samoan father. At 2.02m and 115kg, the lock/loose-forward is a foreboding presence on-field and a popular, humble giant off it. Seu is a talented basketballer, which has likely contributed to his exceptional skillset and footwork on the rugby field.

His impressive exploits for Auckland during his maiden Mitre 10 Cup season in 2015 earned him selection for the 2016 Gallagher Chiefs squad, with Seu making his Super Rugby debut against the Crusaders in his team’s campaign opener that same year. Taleni Seu has played 28 games for the Gallagher Chiefs to date.

Gallagher Chiefs centurion Hikawera (Hika) Elliot will depart New Zealand at the conclusion of the 2017 Investec Super Rugby season to link up with French club US Oyonnax. Elliot, 31, has signed a two-year deal with the Top 14 side, marking the end of a lengthy rugby career in New Zealand that includes four Test appearances for the All Blacks.

Hika Elliot said: “It's with mixed emotions I will depart my beloved Chiefs family at the end of the 2017 season. I am moving abroad to tackle new challenges and experiences with Oyonnax in The French Top 14 competition which I am thoroughly looking forward to. I want to thank my family, the Chiefs, the fans and New Zealand Rugby for giving me the opportunity to live out my childhood dream to travel the world and do something I love as a profession.

My Chiefs whanau have allowed me to develop as a person and become a stronger man and for this I will be forever grateful. The many fond memories, the lifelong friendships and Super Rugby Titles I will forever hold dearly. I would also like to thank the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks for the opportunities I’ve had to represent my country and play rugby at the highest level. I will always be a proud New Zealander, Maori and Chief.”

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said: “Hika is a unique character, cheerful and fiercely competitive, who has matured into a bloody good man. He is proud of his Maori heritage and hugely respected for his work as our Kaea. While his achievements and durability on the footy field are impressive, it’s his work with charities and community groups that have brought balance to his life. We wish him all the best for the next phase of his footy career.”

Hastings-born Hika Elliot has made an immense contribution to New Zealand rugby during his 13-year professional rugby career. The agile, hard-working hooker made his national provincial championship debut for Hawke’s Bay in 2005 at age 19. To date Elliot has played 108 first class provincial games, representing Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Poverty Bay and Counties Manukau.

Elliot, of Ngati Awa descent, attended Hastings Boys High School where he was a part of the 1st XV for four years. In that time he was selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools team for two consecutive years, captaining the side in 2004. The powerful front rower was also a member of the 2004 Under 19 World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 19 team and has played 9 games for the Maori All Blacks.

Hika Elliot made his Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in 2008, before moving north to link up with the Gallagher Chiefs. He made his debut for the Chiefs in 2009 and has played 115 games for the Club to date. In 2016, Elliot played his 100th game for the Chiefs, a feat achieved by only three players in the Club’s history – the others being Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam. He has scored four tries this season, with a Super Rugby career total to date of 10 tries.

Hikawera Elliot is Chief #168.