Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Sporting achievement of the Year Finalist: The Chiefs

The Chiefs celebrate
Dave Rennie's team celebrate their impressive walloping of the Sharks 37-6 in the Super 15 final at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Alan Gibson
Dave Rennie's team celebrate their impressive walloping of the Sharks 37-6 in the Super 15 final at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Alan Gibson

A good season for the Chiefs has often meant something relatively trivial like winning more games than they lost. Starting badly and finishing with a pointless roar was their speciality.

All that changed with an enormous bang in 2012, when the Chiefs stormed to the franchise's first Super 15 title under a new coaching team led by Dave Rennie.

They smashed the Sharks 37-6 in the final at Waikato Stadium after a 12-win, four-loss regular season in which they finished second behind the Stormers before pipping the Crusaders in a tense semifinal. This represented a dramatic turnaround for a team thrashed in their only previous final.

Rennie - who had shown his potential at lowly Manawatu - was assisted by veteran test coach Wayne Smith. Officially the defence and counter-attack co-ordinator, Smith also gave Rennie a built-in mentor in what turned out to be a brilliantly conceived combo.

On style alone, the Chiefs deserved the title, playing a terrific brand of rugby. In the process, they promoted or enhanced the All Black prospects of co-captain Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Sam Cane and Ben Tameifuna although others such as Hika Elliot did not make similar strides. Former Crusader Sonny Bill Williams finally found a cosy, low-key home in his controversial career, and his highly influential Chiefs role pushed him past veteran Ma'a Nonu in the test lineup.

The Chiefs even produced a cult hero in try-scoring prop Sona Taumalolo. And in lock Craig Clarke they found a leader who revelled in the trench warfare.

Perhaps co-captain Clarke and Samoan captain Mahonri Schwalger were the unheralded heroes because they set the tone in a tight five that was expected to struggle.

The Chiefs, who have lost Williams, will face tougher questions as reigning champions, rather than Super 15 darlings, in Rennie's second season.

But Rennie appears a tough old-school coach who can draw more out of his charges, and Smith signalled his commitment by turning down the chance to join England. The Chiefs could well be in the title-chasing business for the long haul.

Selections so far

Valerie Adams
Shot put Olympic gold medallist

Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie
Olympic gold medallists

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic
ANZ netball champions.

New Zealand Breakers
NBL champions

Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan
Olympic gold medallists

The Chiefs
Super 15 champions

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray
Olympic gold medallists

Mahe Drysdale
Olympic gold medallist

Lisa Carrington
Olympic gold medallist

More to be named throughout the week

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 23 Dec 2014 17:06:32 Processing Time: 447ms