Rugby: Chiefs must amend mindset

By Kris Shannon

Asaeli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs looks dejected after the teams' loss during the round six Super Rugby match between the Force and the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs looks dejected after the teams' loss during the round six Super Rugby match between the Force and the Chiefs. Photo / Getty Images.

They won't be about to worry but the nature of the Chiefs' defeat to the Force hardly bodes well for the rest of their road trip.

The defending champions had a rare off night in Perth, never threatening to play to their capability and eventually succumbing to a three-point loss.

While the bonus point left their lead at two points atop the New Zealand conference, the Chiefs will be wary of finding a way to amend their mindset before they visit South Africa.

Games against the Bulls and, in particular, the Cheetahs are both good opportunities to ensure they don't return to Hamilton without a win, but performance levels need a marked improvement.

The Force probably should have been more comfortable in victory on Saturday night, having two potential tries correctly ruled out by the TMO. As it was, the pair they did score, both to skipper Matt Hodgson, proved enough for a third straight triumph.

After putting themselves in prime position to overturn the deficit, the Chiefs were continually let down by handling errors and incorrect option-taking. The champs dominated in all of the attacking stats, beating twice as many defenders and enjoying a healthy advantage in metres and carries, but they were blunted when it mattered.

Ten handling errors, compared to two for the Force, saw possession spilled at the vital moment, meaning five penalties from Aaron Cruden and Gareth Anscombe were all they had to show for their efforts.

The attack will come right in time, with only last week's win over the Stormers coming close to matching the potency the Chiefs showed in finishing as last season's leading scorers. But Dave Rennie and co have a right to be concerned about way in which the Chiefs failed to show right from the opening whistle.

Both the coach and co-captain Cruden suggested as much following the game, questioning what was going wrong in the players' heads.

"The attitude wasn't there right from the start,'' Cruden said. "The Force got the bounce on us and it probably flowed right through the game. I guess we weren't there, mentally.''

Rennie called his side's performance poor and signalled what needed improvement before next weekend's trip to Loftus Versfeld.

"Mentally we didn't look that sharp,'' he said. "We just made far too many errors. It's hard to believe we led at halftime because we hardly fired a shot. We're a better side than that.''

As it has been so far this season, the set piece proved a problem for Rennie's men. The Chiefs have the worst lineout success rate in the competition and three more were lost against the Force, while a pack that outweighed they opposition by 41kg struggled in the scrum.

Those deficiencies were overcome earlier in the current campaign but it took more verve in attack to achieve that outcome. The Chiefs do have plenty of options in backline personnel, despite leaving the likes of Robbie Fruean and James Lowe at home, and Rennie has never been afraid to alter his combinations.

But, whoever is selected in the Republic, the players must get their minds right to avoid another early-season setback.

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 22 Aug 2014 05:33:16 Processing Time: 425ms