Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Depth difference for Chiefs - White

Stephen Moore of the Brumbies shows his disappointment after losing the Super Rugby Final match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.
Stephen Moore of the Brumbies shows his disappointment after losing the Super Rugby Final match between the Chiefs and the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images.

Brumbies coach Jake White says the depth on the Chiefs reserves bench was a big factor in Dave Rennie's men taking a consecutive title.

White has been in a final or two - he led the Springboks to a World Cup victory in 2007 - and said the way players such as Ben Afeaki, Bundee Aki, Robbie Robinson and Sam Cane responded once they took the field in the second half was the main difference between the two teams, rather than the travel factor.

White, who watched his team win their semifinal in the last minutes against the Bulls in Pretoria, went straight on to another rollercoaster when watching his team lose a 10-point lead in the final quarter last night.

"It wasn't so much the travel, it's just the confidence they had of playing in a final last year and winning it,'' White said of the Chiefs. ``When you take off [Tawera] Kerr-Barlow and put on a new halfback [Augustine Pulu], you just see there's a new spark. You take off [Andrew] Horrell and change a centre [Aki].

I was reluctant to do it because I thought we needed calm heads and boys who could handle the pressure. I suppose the lesson I learned and it's reaffirmed to me, that we need to have a stronger bench and make sure that bench understands the pressure that comes with it.

"It's no fault of the players, it's just the situation we're in with the players we have. I think the Chiefs summed it up by the changes they made. They've had a couple of injuries and some guys aren't even available yet that's the sort of rugby they can play.''

White admitted he thought his side had done enough to win the game before the Chiefs stormed back into it. Unfortunately for him the rollercoaster took him to a different destination.

"From the 79th minute last week we were dead and buried but we won the game. With 20 minutes to go I thought we had the game - not sewn up - but I thought the pressure was coming... I thought that would be the end. But all credit to the Chiefs, they showed why they are a championship team, they showed why they won last year and why they came first this year as well by getting a home final.''

Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said he felt his side was fit enough to handle the challenge but there was no doubt the mistakes came quick and fast once the visitors became tired.

"We've prepared all year that this was the week we wanted to end our preparation,'' he said. ``The guys have conditioned really well. We had heaps of running in us. You've still got to be able to make those tough decisions under fatigue. I thought in the first half those 50-50 decisions were going our way and we were desperate to make it that way. In the second half there were a couple of times where if you don't kick the ball out on the full from penalty, the momentum can swing away.''

One of the best for the Brumbies was flanker George Smith, a mid-season signing from Japanese club rugby and an inspired one at that.

"He's phenomenal,'' said White. ``I can't believe he's 33 years old. He won the man of the match last week at Loftus and today again everyone's talking about his performance.

"Obviously that's his last game. We feel a bit for him because we wanted to give him a trophy as well and let him finish on a high note but it wasn't meant to be.''

- APNZ

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