Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Chiefs face different grind

Brodie Retallick of the Chiefs wins lineout ball during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Chiefs at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Brodie Retallick of the Chiefs wins lineout ball during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Chiefs at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

Same old same old? The Chiefs are once again in the race for the Super Rugby crown, seeking to extend their success into a third season.

They know the snags, they understand the emotional and physical content of these challenges and have a coaching crew who are experienced in bringing them to the right pitch.

Their opening gambit is a replay of last year's final with the Brumbies but the similarities end there.

Strong qualifying work meant the Chiefs avoided playing quarter-finals in their 2013 and 2014 campaigns and then had their semifinal and finals at home. This time they travel to Canberra today and if they beat the Brumbies on Saturday, they will then have a semifinal in either Sydney or Christchurch. Continuing success would likely mean an away final.

Last year the Brumbies had to criss-cross the globe before they were caught and overtaken by the Chiefs in the final quarter for their 27-22 victory.

When the sides played their round-robin match in Canberra this year, the Brumbies rolled out to a 41-23 victory.

They have been changing their style from the kick for territory and start work downtown theories to broader patterns involving all parts of the team.

When the teams met in last year's final, Waikato Stadium was sold out and the Brumbies felt that massive home support helped give the Chiefs the edge. Canberra officials have urged their supporters to create a similar passionate backing for the Brumbies and have challenged them to get more than 20,000 to the ground.

The Chiefs will take the confidence of successive victories against the Hurricanes and Blues where they showed the sort of qualities which mean so much in sudden-death rugby.

After some mid-comp blemishes they tightened their defensive lines and only conceded a try in each game. The lineouts were better than they had been while the work ethic driven by Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick and Tanerau Latimer and the direction delivered by a recharged Aaron Cruden has been huge.

Meanwhile, the Brumbies will use the memories of a campaign which began awkwardly with their only loss at Canberra Stadium, when they were out-thought and outgunned by the Reds, but has since brought seven victories on their home track.

- NZ Herald

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