Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Chiefs work hard on detail

A motivational video helped push the Chiefs into the Super 15 final but this week is more about reinforcing the detail which has given them a repeat shot at the title.

Mixing up the strategies and selections is one method of keeping the players on edge and it illustrates the depth the squad has built in two campaigns under coach Dave Rennie.

The staff favour picking sides to deal with different rivals rather than sending the same troops out each round so there may be a tweak or two for Saturday's final against the Brumbies.

New Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie will not travel to watch the match but will monitor the dozen Brumbies he has chosen in his extended opening squad for the Rugby Championship.

"Their results have reflected their work and when I get them back in camp next week I can assess more their intellectual contribution, motivation and the way they handle pressure," he said yesterday.

Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga is still troubled by an ankle problem which may require a fitness test today while other variations are being assessed before the side is announced.

"We may not be doing as much hands-on coaching this week but there is a lot more to it than that, the mental side of things has to be spot on," coach Dave Rennie said.

Their video before the 20-19 semifinal win against the Crusaders reminded them all how hard they had worked this year and what they needed to keep doing to make the nine-month slog successful.

"It was about getting minds right and reminding them who we play for and all those things," Rennie said.

Generally those cues were driven by the Chiefs staff though former league international Tawera Nikau and the Kiwis had also given inspiring talks earlier in the year.

Victory inspired Rennie and his players to do better and that learning force was even stronger after defeats like the Chiefs had against the Reds and Waratahs.

"Rugby is a great game like that and we have a lot of good people here who are highly motivated," Rennie said.

All the staff except Dr James McGarvey would return for next year's campaign while the playing roster, including overtures to Sonny Bill Williams, would not be sorted for a while.

The 2013 group had to cover injuries and developing player depth had been one of the advances.

Players like Charlie Ngatai and Gareth Anscombe, who had been bit-part selections for the Hurricanes and Blues, had emerged with strong performances. They had made big shifts and been at the core of progress.

Trying to claim a repeat Super 15 crown had different challenges from cracking the inaugural title. There were the mental demands about desperation and second-year syndrome but the squad had responded superbly.

Even when they played some indifferent rugby they had won matches and that showed the shifts they had learned about top-level rugby.

"We have all learned a lot about ourselves. But it's not done yet, there is still work to be sorted."

- NZ Herald

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