Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Dave Rennie has the midas touch

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Dave Rennie. Photo / Getty
Dave Rennie. Photo / Getty

Dave Rennie - enjoy him while he lasts.

The Chiefs coach is proving what a gem he is, again, with a team ripped up by injuries and the loss of Olympic aspirants Liam Messam and Sonny Bill Williams flying along in top gear.

Crucially, Rennie is working his magic sans Wayne Smith, his coaching mate and sounding board in the early days when they instantly re-shaped the Chiefs, winning Super titles in their first two seasons. If there was any of Smith's shadow lingering over Rennie, the Chiefs coach has gone a long way to further establishing his own limelight this year despite the impossible-to-fathom loss at home to the Lions.

Like many others, I've given up trying to work out the bizarre Super Rugby format and standings and just take each game as it comes, as the players are supposed to. Play what's in front of you, and see where the chips fall down the line.

My go-to team are the freewheeling Chiefs, who played some of the best Super rugby ever when they beat up the Force in Hamilton, having performed a few similar deeds to see off the powerful Jaguares in Argentina in a thriller last week.

Their ball movement and skills, intricacies and cohesion hit a purple patch on Saturday night.

There's a tingle of anticipation whenever you settle in to watch them play, at odds with the odds they have had to overcome.

Rennie not only needed a new coaching team after Smith stuck with the All Blacks and Tom Coventry headed overseas, but he has to put new teams together on the field. The injury list is staggering: Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris - deep breath - Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Pauliasi Manu, Augustine Pulu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Andrew Horrell, Shaun Stevenson.

"When someone falls over we've got to pull tighter together," is how Dave Rennie puts it, and you'd better believe it.

The man has the midas touch. Michael Leitch plays so well for the Chiefs it makes you wonder if the young man who headed to Japan and embraced the way of life there could have been an All Black.

Rennie lures rising test class such as Laulala, brings back blokes like Hika Elliot and Stephen Donald, finds stars that other people miss, takes some of the best emerging talent and hones it, and gets a one-time provincial hopeful like the pocket rocket Brad Weber to become a test candidate. (Perhaps the one big hole in the plan so far is an inability to turn Aaron Cruden into a world class goalkicker)

The individual highlight on Saturday night was Cruden's backwards pick up on the run to keep a move going for a Toni Pulu try. But there were so many highlights with Charlie Ngatai - a prime example of the Rennie effect - and the whiz kid Damian McKenzie in the thick of it.

The big Dave Rennie question is this: how will his future be affected if Steve Hansen does a little u-turn and, not unexpectedly, stays in charge of the All Blacks for the next World Cup.

Rennie has often talked about his desire to coach overseas and the advantages of doing that. His Chiefs contract ends next year, and he would have been the front runner to step into Hansen's large shoes. It's not just about the Rennie results, it's the way the Chiefs play and the types of players they like.

Hopefully Rennie gets a chance to bring his magic to the All Blacks one day.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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