Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Chiefs four deserve dream team label

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. Photo / Getty Images
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. Photo / Getty Images

The "dream team" label is hawked around sporting circles. We've heard it for the Blues but it might more aptly be applied to those who have been guiding the Chiefs.

Think Dave Rennie, Wayne Smith, Tom Coventry and Andrew Strawbridge - a quartet of rugby savvy who guided the Chiefs to a Super 15 crown in their first season.

It was an unprecedented achievement in the tournament's 17-year history.

Things have pushed on and the Chiefs finished top of the table in pool play this season and tomorrow host a semifinal against the red and black crusade.

When the Chiefs were unveiled last season, there was an unlikely look about the collection and at least 10 players whose Super 15 pedigree could be questioned. And it was. Outside the group and their supporters there was widespread doubt about their ability to cut it.

That has not disappeared. It has reduced, significantly, but you still hear the talk, don't you, the "wait till they meet the Crusaders" mob.

The midfield clout of SBW has gone from the Chiefs, the power of Richard Kahui and snap of Tim Nanai-Williams are injured, Sona Taumalolo and Kane Thompson hit the exit door and there have been other runs of injuries.

But the new faces have fitted in and continued the work as the coaching staff counselled them through another inspiring campaign.

Most top coaches will tell you the toughest part of their job is selection. They can all do the technical stuff and most find ways to motivate their men but the trick is sifting talent, finding players to fit a style and team ethos.

Heading the Chiefs group is Rennie, the one-time pub owner and teacher who has come in from the coaching cold and shown an assured selection gift and direction his players have responded to.

Out front Rennie takes the bulk of the media inquiries. He is not too bothered with that workload and it allows his colleagues to go about their business. You figure he could talk into the phone and skateboard home - if he wanted to, as a means of winding down from his rugby day.

Like many in his coaching trade, Rennie exists on little sleep and the next idea he latches on to or the next tape he has to watch. The Chiefs invested in him and his crew and they have been paid back already with huge dividends.

The coaching foursome all trained as teachers so they understand instruction techniques, a range of methods to deliver their messages and how individuals all need to be clear about their roles.

They are hands-on men, they crack the whip and cuddle their charges depending on the situation. They do not coach by rote or repetition.

Smith brings vast experience and theory, Coventry ladles the starch and techniques into his pack while Strawbridge gets into the details of back play. When they searched for men to top up their squad this campaign they looked for selfless players who understood the power of unity. They have tapped into blokes who will roll up their sleeves and get on with it.

They found men who valued team spirit and applied that character for the good of the Chiefs rather than themselves.

- NZ Herald

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