Rugby: Grumpy Chiefs must tighten defensive screws

By Kris Shannon

Dave Rennie was unhappy with his side's defence against the Lions. Photo / Getty
Dave Rennie was unhappy with his side's defence against the Lions. Photo / Getty

A "pretty brutal" review and one particularly unseemly statistic has left the Chiefs in a foul mood ahead of Sunday morning's clash with the Kings.

With last weekend's loss to the Lions fresh in their minds, Dave Rennie's men will begin a two-match road trip still stinging after having their defence punctured with frequency on their home patch.

They watched the grisly footage in Sydney, en route to the Republic, and the evidence of their shortcomings was all-too clear, especially the 28 missed tackles that allowed the Lions to beat the Chiefs at their own game.

It's awfully early in the competition to be issued a wake-up call but any thoughts the players entertained about sleep-walking their way through the early rounds have been vanquished.

And while the Kings may be regarded as one of Super Rugby's true minnows, having begun life with a mauling against the Sharks, the Chiefs need no new evidence that reputation counts for only so much.

"There's been a lot of edge around training and if anyone thought it was going to be a little bit easier than it is, obviously they've learnt a little bit," Rennie said. "If you're a couple of cogs off in this competition you'll get rolled by anyone. We've had a good look at the Kings and the fact that everyone's writing them off will give them a bit of resolve, I imagine."

Aside from their opponents' state of mind, there would have been plenty of speculation elsewhere as the Chiefs' coaches drew up a game plan for this weekend's outing in Port Elizabeth. The Kings have played only one competitive game this season and their early bye would have also provided plenty of time to amend what went wrong in week one.

"We had a bit of pre-season footage as well to look at, which has given us an idea, and some of the stuff they did on that first game was consistent," Rennie said. "Certainly, their set piece is pretty strong, so we know we're going to have to steel up in that area.

"They've got a really good lineout and they'll drive from that, and they'll put a lot of ball in the air and test us so I think we'll have to deal with defusing bombs. They've certainly got a lot of big ball carriers, as you have with African teams, and they've got a lot of pace out wide."

Those were all the attributes the Lions flaunted in edging the Chiefs in Hamilton, and the success their compatriots enjoyed with ball in hand may give the Kings similar ideas. It would likely be wise to avoid giving the Chiefs too many opportunities to counter-attack, with five of their eight tries this season originating from the first phase, so testing a smarting Chiefs' defence could be a safer strategy.

"Obviously we were disappointed, especially defensively, last week," Rennie said. "We missed 30-odd tackles which is just unheard of from our group at this level. But we've drawn a line in the sand in regard to that performance - we know it wasn't good enough.

"I expect us to defend a hell of a lot better and the quality of the individual tackling needs to raise, as well as our ability to create a bit more turnover pill from that to play with."

- NZ Herald

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