Rugby: Smith confident of patching up defence

By Kris Shannon

Wayne Smith. Photo / APN
Wayne Smith. Photo / APN

Wayne Smith's defensive wizardry has won the Chiefs a fair few games over the last three seasons.

But after the defending champions' humbling against the Hurricanes, the defence coach had a stern word with himself ahead of his side's meeting with the Waratahs tomorrow.

The Australian Conference leaders head to New Plymouth as the competition's second-highest try scorers, so the onus will be on the Chiefs' defence to avoid another damaging defeat.

And after spending a painful day or two reviewing the 45 points the Chiefs shipped last weekend - the most during his tenure - Smith is confident of finding a remedy.

"The defence coach had a good talk to himself and hopefully he's doing better this week and the team will reflect that," he said. "While [the Hurricanes] had some big, fast attackers, we went walkabout and didn't apply the system.

"We didn't have people in the right places, playing the right roles. So that's been the emphasis this week."

Despite leaking like a sieve in Wellington, the Chiefs' defence boasts some impressive numbers, missing the fewest tackles (13.3 a match) in Super Rugby and ceding the fewest metres (349.5).

Their problems have arisen in two areas. Half the tries they have conceded (14 of 28) have come from the first phase, while an even greater number (16) arrive when an opposition side has a lineout. Those statistics suggest the Chiefs have been vulnerable from set moves, with their defence becoming more switched on as the play progresses.

Being unable to field a consistent lineup has hardly helped matters and a combination of form, fatigue and returning numbers has seen another seven changes for tomorrow night. Aaron Cruden is the most prominent inclusion, tasked with turning around his team's fortunes and playing his way into form ahead of the England series.

Chiefs: Tom Marshall, Dwayne Sweeney, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden (c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Matt Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Nathan Harris, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Pauliasi Manu, Josh Hohneck, Michael Fitzgerald, Tanerau Latimer, Brad Weber, Gareth Anscombe, Bundee Aki.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (c), Kane Douglas, Jacques Potgieter, Paddy Ryan, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Matt Carraro.

- NZ Herald

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