Starting games better has been a big talking point in the Chiefs camp, but this is really a story about process, accountability and implementation.

The Chiefs have been fighting some mental demons over the course of the past fortnight because, largely across the board, they know that they really haven't been able to get into their work at all to begin this season.

Their starts are the biggest reason for that, conceding a total of 82 first half points in the first four games.

But if there is something that the modern-day rugby player will obsess over, it's not so much the numbers, it's their own process.


Week by week, day by day and sometimes even hour by hour, a players' process is paramount to their success and failings.

Many coaches are also the exact same way, and when it's done right it has a small but sizeable impact right throughout a team, even those not on the field come match day, because everyone buys into ideology that it's the little things, step by step, that matter in the greater outcome.

So often in sport we look at the result, win or lose, and talk about the processes and successes/failings of such in the aftermath. Being on the wrong side of that hurt the Chiefs.

Individuals had to take accountability and accept they got the prep wrong.

From here, most sides would agree that it doesn't take too much work from the coaches to get it all ticking again, but at the same time, it can also be one of the harder challenges because you can't always be playing to rescue a game from the clutches of defeat.

That's been the status quo in three of the four encounters so far, the game literally being on the brink from being lost.

You can also bet your bottom dollar that Warren Gatland will also be closely holding himself accountable to improving his own preparation and execution.

He and his fellow coaches have instructed more physicality during the on-field warm-ups, but it's up to the players to hold themselves accountable to doing such.


It's a switch that needs to be flicked quickly, because the next six weeks will also see travel thrown into the mix.

The travel schedule for the Chiefs sees a flight to and from Sydney, a week at home for a crucial Kiwi derby against the Hurricanes on March 13, then a long flight to South Africa where the side will play in Durban and then Johannesburg prior to returning to New Zealand.

To keep themselves at the pointy end, it's going to be about managing what is a simple part of rugby for the Chiefs and doing so without much in terms of home comforts.

It's certainly a challenge Gatland's men can conquer and the best way to prove as much is by fixing these starts so they can go out and play, not react.

Michael Pulman is a freelance writer based in Hamilton.

Centre Tumua Manu returns from injury

Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland has made several changes to his starting XV to challenge the NSW Waratahs on Friday.


Bay of Plenty prop Ross Geldenhuys will run out for his first start in the Chiefs jersey, replacing Atu Moli who has been ruled out due to illness.
Geldenhuys will be joined by weekly start Aidan Ross and hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho who moves from the bench into the starting jersey.

The locking duo of Michael Allardice and Tyler Ardron will complete a strong tight five. Lachlan Boshier returns from his break to start in the number six jersey in place of Luke Jacobson. Gallagher Chiefs captain Sam Cane remains at seven alongside the powerful Pita Gus Sowakula at number eight.

An experienced halves pairing of Brad Weber and Aaron Cruden will respectively start at nine and ten. In a competitive tussle for midfield starting spots, All Black midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown will move to second five-eighth, making way for Tumua Manu who will return from injury to start at centre.

The back three will see Sean Wainui return to the left wing, Shaun Stevenson start on the right wing and Solomon Alaimalo complete a dynamic backline.

In the reserves, Counties Manukau hooker Donald Maka will be set to make his Investec Super Rugby debut. Rookie Ryan Coxon moves into the 23 in jersey number 17. Alex Nankivell will be the only remaining change to the reserves slotting into jersey number 23.

Gatland said the team want to deliver an improved performance.


"We were disappointed with our performance against the Brumbies in front of our fans.

On Friday we want to get our campaign back on track. The boys are eager to get back out on the field and deliver an improved performance.

We know that our starts need to be sharper, so that is a focus heading into this game."

"It should be a competitive hit out on Friday, so it is great to have the likes of Tumua returning from injury.

"He is a powerful midfielder and we are excited to see him in action again. It will also be a special moment for Donald Maka. He has been training hard and we are pleased to reward him for this," said Gatland.

Gallagher Chiefs: 1. Aidan Ross (29); 2. Samisoni Taukei'aho (26); 3. Ross Geldenhuys (3); 4. Michael Allardice (43); 5. Tyler Ardron (29); 6. Lachlan Boshier (47); 7. Sam Cane (114) C; 8. Pita Gus Sowakula (18); 9. Brad Weber (75); 10. Aaron Cruden (92); 11. Sean Wainui (29);12. Anton Lienert-Brown (72); 13. Tumua Manu (16); 14. Shaun Stevenson (46); 15. Solomon Alaimalo (41). Reserves: 16. Donald Maka**; 17. Ryan Coxon (4); 18. Reuben O'Neill (2); 19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (4); 20. Mitchell Karpik (23); 21. Lisati Milo-Harris (1); 22. Kaleb Trask (3); 23. Alex Nankivell (26).
() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
**denotes Investec Super Rugby debut


NSW Waratahs vs Gallagher Chiefs, Friday March 6, 9.15pm (NZ time), WIN Stadium, Wollongong