Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Why victory over Waratahs is so important for Chiefs

It takes a bit to rattle Dave Rennie but the Chiefs coach has made no secret of the way his team have been struggling to score points since their return from South Africa. Photo / Getty Images.
It takes a bit to rattle Dave Rennie but the Chiefs coach has made no secret of the way his team have been struggling to score points since their return from South Africa. Photo / Getty Images.

It takes a bit to rattle Dave Rennie but the Chiefs coach has made no secret of the way his team have been struggling to score points since their return from South Africa.

He is obviously unhappy and he has shown it in the selection of his team to play the Waratahs in Sydney tomorrow, which includes six changes in personnel.

The 31-23 defeat by the Reds in Hamilton last weekend was the culmination of a few scratchy performances on attack, and, significantly, the table-topping Brumbies have overtaken the Chiefs in terms of points scored.

Rennie's men remain on top of the New Zealand conference, two points ahead of the Blues, and second overall behind the Brumbies, but a loss to the Waratahs could result in a major reshuffle on the leaderboard. The Blues' bye this weekend gives them four points, which could allow Sir John Kirwan's men to overtake them.

The Chiefs created opportunities against the Reds, but mistakes were costly. They scored two tries through Bundee Aki and Patrick Osborne, the latter after Reds centre Anthony Faingaa was sinbinned.

Before their bye they scored two tries in the victory over the Blues in Mt Maunganui and before that one try in the win over the Highlanders in Hamilton.

Five tries in three games is not a bad return - the stuttering Crusaders have scored only three tries in their past three matches - but it's not good for the defending champion Chiefs, who looked a different side in the first four matches of the season.

Victories over the Highlanders, Cheetahs and Kings and a narrow defeat by the Stormers reaped 18 tries.

There is yet another midfield combination against the Waratahs, with Richard Kahui moving to second-five and Charlie Ngatai to centre, but various players were used here in the first four games, including the inexperienced Aki and converted wing/fullback Tim Nanai-Williams, which hardly seemed to affect them.

A more likely reason for their relative misfiring is the way they have been taken on up front. The Reds, Blues and Highlanders have all attacked their breakdown, with the Queenslanders also creating problems for their lineout. A harassed team is more likely to make mistakes.

It's probably also a confidence thing which brings us back to the match against the Waratahs, who possess threats in Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell out wide.

A victory will keep the Chiefs machine rolling, but a convincing one would give it a turbo kick. A defeat would hurt and, while it wouldn't necessarily cause doubts to creep in, the attack question will be back louder than ever.

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 20 Apr 2014 16:31:28 Processing Time: 597ms