Pain of 2009 nipped in the bud by Chiefs
It was painful but it had to be done. Chiefs coach Dave Rennie bit the bullet and confronted his team with footage of their only previous Super Rugby final appearance before this week had even begun.
Sunday’s team video session of their embarrassing 61-17 massacre at the hands of the Bulls in Pretoria three years ago was a necessity, Rennie believed, and set the tone mentally for Saturday’s final against the Sharks in Hamilton.
“We’ve got half a dozen guys who played in that game and we asked them to talk about what was different between that team and this team,” Rennie told NZ Newswire.
“It gave us a kick-start to make sure we got all our preparation and attention to detail right.
“Now when we take the field, we can just get out and play rather than think about lots of things.”
It would be foolhardy to doubt Rennie’s methods, such has the been the overwhelming progress made under a coach who was green at this level.
He locks horns with former New Zealand provincial rival John Plumtree, whose Sharks have racked up more than 40,000km in travel over the past fortnight but defied it with compelling rugby to topple the Reds and Stormers.
Both sides boast latent attacking talent.
For the Chiefs, their hard-working pack is complemented by the brilliance of inside backs Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams while strike weapon prop Sona Taumalolo’s nine tries are a record for a forward in a Super Rugby season.
Outside back JP Pietersen is the form Sharks attacking weapon while hooker Bismarck du Plessis and loosie-turned-lock Willem Alberts head a cast of bruising forwards.
The visitors are desperate to translate their fourth appearance into a maiden title and to emerge from the South African shadow the Bulls and Stormers have cast on them in recent years.
After losing their first two games of the campaign, Plumtree has his men peaking in a similar manner to the Chiefs.
Rennie believed his own side were mature enough to handle the occasion. Their target had been a simple one since their bruising semi-final upset of the Crusaders.
“It’s been about being better than we were last week,” Rennie said.
“The Sharks have put a number of teams to the sword over the last month so we’ll need to raise the bar again.”
The winners will become the sixth Super Rugby champions in 17 editions since 1996, joining the Crusaders (seven titles), Blues (three), Bulls (three), Brumbies (two) and Reds (one).© AAP 2013
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