Rugby: Chiefs to face shake-up

By Kris Shannon

Wayne Smith hopes the Chiefs' loss against the Force was an anomaly.
Wayne Smith hopes the Chiefs' loss against the Force was an anomaly.

The worst performance in Wayne Smith's time at the Chiefs will leave a few players fearing for their spots against the Bulls this weekend.

The Chiefs were almost unrecognisable in last week's loss to the Force, more reminiscent of an earlier incarnation of the franchise rather than the championship calibre of the last couple of seasons.

Smith was blunt in his assessment of his side's display and, ahead of their visit to Loftus Versfeld on Sunday morning (NZT), warned that many Chiefs had cause for concern ahead of tomorrow's team naming.

"We're considering all options," said the assistant coach "There will be a fair bit of anxiety this week around player selection, I guess.

"When you perform like that every player is up for a selection competition. We've been known for keeping edge in the team by changing people and not putting up with poor performances. So I'd say that applies to everyone this week and there will be a bit of an edge."

That prospect should come as no surprise for the players. They would have been well aware of their insipid effort in Perth and, if they needed any clarification, the coaching staff have emphasised as much this week.

"There's always pretty hard talking in this team," Smith said. "The coaches don't tend to hide anything and the players like it up front, so it's better to be transparent.

"We've got that sort of environment where we're prepared to stab in the belly than talk behind people's backs. It's always difficult after a long flight [to South Africa] but we're a close team and everyone loves each other."

After both Dave Rennie and Aaron Cruden pointed toward mental deficiencies as a key factor for the champs' challenging night in Perth, Smith also acknowledged the absence of an intangible quality.

Asked whether it was the poorest he had seen the Chiefs during his three-year reign, Smith said "by far".

"I don't think we quite had the attitude that we've had in previous games this year. We probably let our standards down in almost every area.

"We just didn't seem to play with the intensity we normally do and that became contagious to the extent that it was a pretty average team performance.

"Hopefully it's an anomaly."

Whether that's true will be dependent on those members of the touring party who survive the culling. It doesn't get any easier for the Chiefs, with the Bulls having won all three matches at Loftus Versfeld this season, but Smith was confident they had the squad to respond.

"You can talk all you like but we've got to front on the field. That's the job for the players who are selected."

- APNZ

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