Opinion: Wrong to probe Rennie's integrity

By Peter White

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UNDER FIRE: Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, left, chats to Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd before last Saturday's game in Wellington. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
UNDER FIRE: Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, left, chats to Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd before last Saturday's game in Wellington. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

I have met and interviewed hundreds of coaches at all levels as a sports journalist.

Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie is right up there when it comes to creating fundamental values and culture within teams.

He is a straight-up man who loves players of character, epitomised by his co-captains Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden.

In my view, Rennie has every reason to be angry at his integrity being questioned publicly as it has been this week following the farcical end to the match against the Hurricanes last Saturday.

Various media reports have accused the Chiefs of faking an injury to tighthead prop Siate Tokolahi with five minutes to go.

The Chiefs were leading 28-27 and about to defend a scrum near their 22 against a totally dominant Hurricanes scrum.

Tokolahi was helped off with a recurring back injury with Bay of Plenty's loosehead prop Siegfried "Ziggy" Fisi'ihoi replacing him as the Chiefs last front-row replacement.

But Rennie called Ziggy back off the field as he did not want to risk injuring him on the tighthead side against the Hurricanes.

So the Chiefs played with 14 players for the final five minutes, the Hurricanes lost their dominant edge as the scrums became uncontested (no pushing) and the Chiefs held on to win.

There are many facets at play in this saga but blatant cheating by the Chiefs is not one of them.

During the week, Rennie said Fisi'ihoi was "murdered" on the tighthead side at training. Yes, he has filled in for the Steamers at tighthead but he played most of his early rugby at No8.

Being able to prop both sides of the scrum is still rare at this level. So was there a real risk of injury? Possibly.

The video footage shown this week of the Chiefs apparently asking Tokolahi to fake an injury is hardly conclusive. Earlier, the prop needed attention to a back strain which is a key reason why the Hurricanes dominated the scrums.

The Chiefs were already without injured first choice props Nepo Laulala, Pauliasi Manu and Atu Moli, so Rennie did what any top coach would do. He took his man off knowing this was still early days in the arduously long Super Rugby season.

But why would the Chiefs willingly want to play with 14 men anyway?

The final play of the match saw Hurricanes first-five Beauden Barrett make use of the numerical advantage to make a clean break before passing to the hapless Jason Woodward, who dropped the ball with the tryline open.

Last year the Hurricanes beat the Chiefs after a howler of a decision by TMO Vinny Munro meant the Chiefs' match-winning try was incorrectly ruled out. But no complaints from the Hurricanes that night.

Perhaps trying to kick the ball between the uprights and catching the ball should be their focus rather than conspiracy theories.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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