Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Chiefs seek mental steel for semifinal

Retallick's return a boost for clash with rampant Crusaders pack.

Lock Brodie Retallick is readying for a return to action against the Crusaders after being sidelined with an ankle injury. Photo / Getty Images
Lock Brodie Retallick is readying for a return to action against the Crusaders after being sidelined with an ankle injury. Photo / Getty Images

The Chiefs are aware of the awakening monster that is the Crusaders forward pack but are confident they have the personnel to combat it - as long as they take the field with the right attitude.

Boosting their positivity ahead of the Super 15 semifinal at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night is the fact that locking linchpin Brodie Retallick is well on the road to recovery from his high ankle sprain and is likely to be available.

Chiefs forwards coach Tom Coventry yesterday acknowledged the Crusaders' forwards were impressive in their team's 38-9 demolition of the Reds in the qualifier match in Christchurch at the weekend.

It came a fortnight after a similar dismantling of the defending champion Chiefs, but Coventry said his side could take comfort from the fact that they have competed well against the Crusaders in the past - beating them in Hamilton in their first clash in May, and getting the better of them at this stage last year.

"They're playing well at the moment," Coventry said of the Crusaders forwards, a line-up which includes eight current or former All Blacks.

"The whole country knows that, the whole world does, they have an international pack. It's more about the attitude you bring to the game. They weren't too happy with their effort against the Hurricanes [a narrow win before the Reds match] and they turned it around.

"We can be much better than we were in Christchurch and we will be. That was particularly disappointing because it was billed as a significant match but we didn't show up.

"We'll have to be at our best but we've done it in the past."

The long queues for tickets at Waikato Stadium yesterday suggested the match will be a sell-out and the home advantage will be important for the Chiefs. They have quickly been labelled as underdogs, yet have been one of the most consistent teams in the competition, finishing on top of the table and losing only four matches.

In Ben Afeaki, Hika Elliot and Ben Tameifuna they have one of the best front rows of the competition, with captain Craig Clarke one of the hardest working locks.

They will be without centre Tim Nanai-Williams, who requires a groin operation, but are otherwise in good shape in terms of injuries. Loose forwards Matt Vant Leven and Tanerau Latimer, casualties against the Blues at Eden Park before their recent weekend off, will be available, but it is the return to fitness of Retallick which is the most significant.

"He's important to us," Coventry said. "He's part of the engine room and a catalyst for all the good things we do - the driving play, work at the breakdowns, he's pretty uncompromising.

"His numbers in terms of work-rate are impressive and you've seen what he's done in the black jersey. He's been a constant for us."

Coventry said he was happy with the appointment of Steve Walsh as the referee for the match, saying he was one of the most consistent in the competition.

As for the breakdown penalties the Chiefs conceded in their heavy defeat in Christchurch, something which hampered them earlier in the season, that could also be blamed on the poor attitude and lack of enthusiasm, he said.

"The referee tends to favour the team going forward and that's the way it should be I reckon."

The story so far

Chiefs 28 Crusaders 19
Week 15, Hamilton

Crusaders 43 Chiefs 15
Week 19, Christchurch

- APNZ

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