Rugby: Rennie receiving plenty of help from his friends

By Kris Shannon

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has masterminded the competition's best attack. Photo / Getty
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has masterminded the competition's best attack. Photo / Getty

Dave Rennie understandably earns the acclaim but the Chiefs coach has enjoyed plenty of assistance in turning his attack into an unstoppable force.

The Chiefs' latest blistering display lifted Rennie's men to a six-try bashing of the Brumbies and left the competition-leaders six points ahead of the pack before Friday's clash with the Blues.

The Chiefs boast big advantages in almost every attacking category and, worryingly for Tana Umaga's side, appear to be getting better every week. Their top-of-the-table showdown with the Brumbies was a demolition, highlighting all the attributes that have produced 34 tries in six games this season.

Led by the diminutive duo of Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie, the Chiefs' attack played with a relentless tempo and remarkable skillset, allowing the likes of Charlie Ngatai and James Lowe to flourish in the open field.

Having generally attacked without restraint during Rennie's reign, the two-time champions this season seem even more willing to seize every opportunity with ball in hand. And the coach revealed that was no accident.

After losing assistants Wayne Smith (All Blacks) and Tom Coventry (London Irish) to other commitments, Rennie recruited a couple of men who have been key to the Chiefs' sparkling play.

Taranaki stalwart Neil Barnes was brought from Canada to take care of the forwards, installing in the Chiefs a method to better maximise the set piece as a base from which to launch raids, while Tasman coach Kieran Keane assumed the backs portfolio and added an extra element of width to the attack.

"Those are a couple of different coaches with different ideas," Rennie said. "Certainly KK has added to our attack in regards to structure and allowing us to play a bit wider, and we've sort of moulded that with traditionally how we've played.

"We've always had a pretty attacking mindset and been prepared to have a go from anywhere. We all sit around and talk about things, and certainly we're playing with a lot more width and that's helping us spread the defence."

Lowe, who played under Keane at the Makos, has been one man maximising all that width, crossing five times this year to join McKenzie and Ngatai in the top three of the try-scoring charts. And it's been notable, despite a testing schedule that on Saturday saw the Chiefs win in a fourth different country in as many weeks, how none of the sparkplugs has suffered from fatigue.

McKenzie and Lowe (480) have played every minute of the current campaign, while Cruden (445) and Ngatai (433) are close behind. Instead of tiring as games progress, the opposite has been true, with 22 tries coming in the second half and 14 in the final quarter.

"A lot of that comes down to our conditioning," Rennie said. "Phil Healey, our trainer, and his team have done an amazing job, knowing that we had a lot of travel and couldn't train as much as we would have liked.

"When you know you've got to go around the world, you don't get quite the training volume in, so we had to make sure during our pre-season that we were really strong. We're a very fit side and we've been pretty clinical in those last parts to storm home."

And the Chiefs' ability to finish strongly will only be enhanced by the injection of some fresh legs, with Brodie Retallick, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Dominic Bird all expected to be fit to face the Blues on Friday.

- NZ Herald

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