Rugby: It's all about guts and belief, says Clarke

Chiefs and All Blacks centre Richard Kahui stretches out during training at Ruakura Research Centre in Hamilton. Photo / Christine Cornege
Chiefs and All Blacks centre Richard Kahui stretches out during training at Ruakura Research Centre in Hamilton. Photo / Christine Cornege

Chiefs skipper says he's not surprised his team are at the top of the Super 15 ladder.

If you had told Chiefs captain Craig Clarke that his side would be leading the Super 15 after eight rounds and with every showing would look increasingly like the team to beat, he would have believed it.

"There is certainly a belief in our squad but if you had asked me that, I probably would have told you that we would have been pretty bloody happy with that situation, that's for sure," he said yesterday.

"I think we have a slightly tighter group and we are working a little bit harder than we have in the past, especially around our defence, and that has shown with our results."

The Hamilton-based side are in unfamiliar territory and loving it - sitting at the top of the Super 15 table after a dream start to the season with seven wins from eight, including a clean sweep of their three-match leg in Australia and South Africa.

They lead the Stormers by two points and are ahead of their nearest New Zealand rivals, the Highlanders, by five, and go into tomorrow night's match against the Hurricanes as short $1.45 favourites at the TAB.

Clarke, who will captain the side in his 50th appearance for the franchise tomorrow night, said there was a belief in the Chiefs side that had been missing in previous campaigns.

And he thinks the team, with talent such as Sonny Bill Williams, Richard Kahui, Tim Nanai Williams and Lelia Masaga, can only get better.

"The confidence levels are pretty good. Obviously with where we are on the table you sort of have to be confident with what you are doing," he said.

"But there's still a hell of a lot of improvement for us to do. We are sort of winning a few games with our guts and determination in our [defence] and making it quite hard so our attacking execution has to be better."

Young prop Josh Hohneck said the Chiefs had a clear plan when the team assembled at the start of the year.

"Our goal then was to win our first Super Rugby title so we started with a clean slate and every game is a different game," he said.

"But we have done all we can to get the crowds along and we just want to play well so everyone can have a good night."

Nearly 12,000 tickets had been sold by yesterday for the match.

This is well ahead of the average 8000 tickets that were sold for Chiefs home games last year but the side is hoping for a crowd of at least 15,000.

Chiefs media manager Kylie Sousa is expecting further ticket sales today and a good walk-up crowd before the match.

- NZ Herald

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