Rugby: Chiefs seek the element of surprise

By Kris Shannon

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. Photo / APN
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. Photo / APN

The Chiefs are hoping some "top secret" changes made during the June break can propel them towards the Super Rugby playoffs.

No team was in more need of a few weeks away than the defending champions, who stumbled into the international window with consecutive losses that dropped them to eighth on a congested ladder.

While five members of the squad were on All Blacks duty, the rest of the Chiefs were working hard to find a solution for the form slump. Dave Rennie and co deconstructed what was going wrong, heard the views of the playing staff and made minor alterations to their game ahead of this weekend's crunch clash with the Highlanders.

The nature of those changes? All will be revealed at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.

"It was just tweaking little things she's all top secret," said Tanerau Latimer. "The main thing that came through was we were becoming a bit predictable. The style of play we had, we'd used it for two years."

Latimer was part of a leadership group that, missing co-captains Liam Messam and Aaron Cruden, contributed to the tweaks. But, with only six wins from 13 games, the coach also impressed some authority.

"We had a couple of challenging days when we looked back at where we're at, where we want to be and what we've got to do," Rennie said. "We've taken on-board a lot of feedback from the players and we've been cracking the whip in some other areas."

While the Chiefs were hardly languishing in the try-scoring stakes, ranking fourth in Super Rugby with 38 to their name, Rennie said much of the focus was around finishing.

"We've created a lot of opportunities but just haven't been clinical enough."

The Highlanders, sitting in the wildcard position, will be hoping for the opposite, with the fortunes of four New Zealand teams on the line in the last three weeks of the regular season. With three points separating the two sides, the Chiefs were grateful their All Black contingent, bar Sam Cane, returned full of health.

Cane will feature only if the Chiefs progress deep in the playoffs, while similar is true of Ross Filipo. Halfback Augustine Pulu is again available, having had a run in the Chiefs' tune-up games against shadow Waikato and Bay of Plenty teams, and Robbie Fruean is also pressing his case for selection.

Chiefs' remaining fixtures

- NZ Herald

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