Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Mighty Chiefs expose issues

Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders looks to beat the tackle of Tanerau Latimer. Photo / Getty Images
Robbie Fruean of the Crusaders looks to beat the tackle of Tanerau Latimer. Photo / Getty Images

By any measure, you'd have to say the Chiefs deserved that win and that the Crusaders may now face a bit of a rebuilding phase.

No titles since 2008 is a poor return for the Crusaders and while I don't think Todd Blackadder will be under any pressure for his job, he might need to re-think his playing options and team selections.

I didn't get the selection of Ben Franks to start the game ahead of brother Owen, for one thing. I thought that just gave the Chiefs a head-start up front - and they won that first half (and the game, really ... ) because they were hungrier. They threw everything at it.

Corey Flynn might be the more experienced hooker but I think he must be close to retirement or offshore rugby now and in a game as mobile as that, Quentin MacDonald does more around the field.

Then, going forward, I think you'd have to look at a few other players as well as Ben Franks and Flynn. Maybe it's time to go to the wider training group now and bring more young people through.

I'd be looking at players like Willie Heinz - is he going to be anything more than a remote back-up to Andy Ellis? It might be time to bring someone through who can put the pressure on a bit and bring something new to the table.

I'd also include Robbie Fruean in that assessment. I thought the Chiefs' Andrew Horrell outplayed him on Friday night and Fruean's season has been a disappointing one overall. He just has not stamped himself on the game at this level and it may even be time for the Crusaders to look elsewhere.

Lock Tom Donnelly is already heading overseas and I felt the Crusaders badly missed Luke Romano when he went off injured.

George Whitelock at flanker is what I'd call "security" - a good Super 15 player who never has a bad game but who never seems to set things on fire either. Maybe time to look in that area too.

Add to that wingers Zac Guildford and Adam Whitelock. The latter is just a tradesman, I think, and doesn't offer a lot in firepower and I wondered why they didn't use Sean Maitland more this year. Guildford has got to the stage, I think, where if he shines you can be pretty sure the opposition is having an off day. He runs good lines and is a good support player and finisher - but that's about it. He isn't the sort of creative, game-breaking winger you see elsewhere.

Having said all that, you have to take your hat off to the Chiefs.

Their front five were superb and I thought the backline from Tawera Kerr-Barlow through Aaron Cruden, Sonny Bill Williams and Horrell outplayed their opposites - as did fullback Robbie Robinson whose burst set up Liam Messam's fine try.

All right, the try given to Sona Taumalolo looked a bit fishy both for the forward pass in the build-up and the dicey TMO call - but Messam's try was a cracker and effectively decided the contest with both goalkickers, Dan Carter and Cruden, missing shots at goal. Messam had a great game and really threw his hat in the ring for the All Blacks. He was the most accurate of the Chiefs' loosies and played with real heart and conviction on defence and attack.

Ben Tameifuna at prop surprised me with his play - he went very well - and Mahonri Schwalger kept All Black Hika Elliott off the park, he played so well. Taumalolo had another good game - I think that is their best front row - and with good games from locks Craig Clarke and Brodie Retallick, the whole front five was firing and that was what won the game.

I don't think the Chiefs will have left it all on Rugby Park either.

Even if they have to travel to South Africa for the final, they have a man on board, Wayne Smith, who has done all that and more with the All Blacks and Crusaders and knows what it takes to win there. Head coach Dave Rennie has done a similar job with the under-20s in their world championship wins overseas and Tom Coventry is an unsung hero in the Chiefs' line-up.

There are much too many smarts in the Chiefs' set-up to repeat what happened the last time they made the final - when they stumbled badly.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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