Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Sporting Achievement of the Year 2013: Chiefs

The Chiefs perform a haka after winning the Super Rugby final match against the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images
The Chiefs perform a haka after winning the Super Rugby final match against the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images

There is little doubt that the New Zealand Super Rugby conference is the most difficult, so the Chiefs' exploits in backing up their inaugural title of the year before were meritorious indeed.

They did it too without Sonny Bill Williams and what seemed to be a revolving door of a midfield, with several combinations tried because of injuries to Richard Kahui and Tim Nanai-Williams.

Coach Dave Rennie and his assistants again showed an uncanny knack of getting the best out of every member of their squad.

They suffered setbacks - losing at home to the Reds and then the Waratahs in Sydney a week later; they also lost badly to the Crusaders in Christchurch - yet they always bounced back.

Led by Craig Clarke, the lock now playing in Ireland, the Chiefs were extremely strong mentally.

They were the worst performing team in the competition in terms of retaining possession, yet used the relative scraps that they did get better than anyone else.

In terms of the closeness of the members of their squad - another way of saying "culture" - they have gone ahead of the Crusaders, who were the benchmark for years.

Their facilities at Ruakura mean they have outstripped their foe in Christchurch in this regard too. They recruit well - their tentacles hunting for new talent spread throughout New Zealand - and players probably would not need much convincing to move to Hamilton.

The title win this year wasn't easy - they sneaked past the Crusaders 20-19 in the semifinal at Waikato Stadium and the Brumbies were a worthy final opponent.

But, with a montage of their pa - or fortified village - stuck to their dressing room wall made up of pictures of loved ones, they went back to back. Few would bet against them doing it again next year.

Words such as "dynasty" sit easily with the Chiefs. With Sonny Bill Williams likely to be back in 2015, could they be the first franchise to go four in a row?

- APNZ

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