Super 15: Four probing questions

The Chiefs run out on the field for the Super Rugby Final match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
The Chiefs run out on the field for the Super Rugby Final match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies at Waikato Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

Patrick McKendry of APNZ, Wynne Gray of the NZ Herald and Gregor Paul from the Herald on Sunday answer four probing questions from last night's Super Rugby final.

1. The Brumbies were better for the first 60 minutes... How much of this result can be attributed to the 'travel factor'?

WG: Perhaps some. Both teams are superbly conditioned and it was more a case of the Brumbies smothering the Chiefs for an hour before the hosts found their mojo.

PM: They were better than the Chiefs for the first hour because they had confidence in their game plan and had players such as George Smith and Christian Lealiifano playing out of their skins. They were beating the Chiefs to the punch at the breakdown. There's no doubt the travel factor would have played a part in their dropping off, but, more importantly, the Chiefs shed their nerves and actually started playing like a championship team.

GP: Not much. More should be attributed to George Smith being brilliant for a long time until the Chiefs finally worked out that being more direct and committing greater numbers to the breakdown would reduce his influence. There was also no doubt the Chiefs were strangely nervous.

2. Or was it more a case of an exceptional bench effort?

WG: That helped. The Chiefs seemed more anxious than usual, they needed to take a deep breath but finals footy can take that away from you.

PM: The fresh legs made a huge difference. Jake White admitted he didn't have confidence in his bench. That says it all really.

GP: The bench helped. Bundee Aki is a direct runner and it was his break that set up the second try. Sam Cane, although he dropped the ball at a critical juncture, added plenty too. The back row had a better balance with him on as Matt vant Leven looked a little out of his depth. And don't forget, the genuine prospect of losing a final at home may have jolted the Chiefs. It was a final - the Brumbies had 80 minutes in them regardless of air miles.

3. Liam Messam, possibly the most influential player on the pitch. How do the ABs tap into his psyche like Dave Rennie et al can?

WG: He has been 'getting it' more with the All Blacks but test rugby is another step up from even a Super 15 final.

PM: Messam is an emotional guy - tapping into his emotional side is the key. He plays a big leadership role for Rennie's men and thrives because of it.

GP: Messam was good. Most influential? Probably not. That was Ben Tameifuna. He kept them in touch for the fist 45 minutes. Messam took over that role later in the game. It's not that the All Blacks can't tap into his pysch and the Chiefs can - still a big jump from Super Rugby to test matches. Takes a special player to own a test in the same way and let's not forget, it took Jerome Kaino about 30 tests before he was world class.

4. Do we need to acknowledge in the Southern Hemisphere that the overall standard of the Super 15 this year was poor?

WG: Compared to what. The north. You must be kidding. The Super 15 is a better example of all-round rugby than anything they dish up regularly in Europe.

PM: A bit harsh on the Chiefs, that question. They deserved their title. They were the most consistent team in the competition and got the important results. In saying that, the final was probably played last week between the Chiefs and Crusaders.

GP: Maybe not poor - but not consistently great. There weren't many classic games. There weren't many obvious heroes and no one changed the landscape with the way they played. Would the Chiefs beat Heineken Cup champions Toulon? Probably. As would the Crusaders, Bulls, Brumbies and probably the Stormers. Actually the Reds could manage it, too and possibly the Cheetahs.

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