Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says team are much better prepared to combat travel for Super Rugby semifinal this time round
Having broken things down into the finest of details in regards to best coping with their arduous travel schedule, the Chiefs are much better placed for their Super Rugby semifinal this time than they were last year, according to coach Dave Rennie.
After again having to trek to Cape Town to take down the Stormers in a quarterfinal then return to New Zealand for a semifinal, the Chiefs are confident they have heeded lessons from last year – when they meekly conceded to the Hurricanes in Wellington – as they aim up for a huge clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.
The team fronted for media duty post-training on Wednesday, having arrived back in Hamilton around 2.30am on Tuesday, and while those two words – “the travel” – are basically a taboo subject among the squad, it was certainly the topic of conversation for all other parties, as Rennie looks to prepare his boys for another big push.
“We’ve got a plan, and it involves, from the first minute we left the field, around recovery and so on,” he said. “Even when the boys travelled we slept at certain times. So we’ve arrived back well. We had a late start yesterday, we’ve brought it back a little bit today, and the same again tomorrow, so we’re just slowly moving back into the right time zone, then maybe going the other way again in a week’s time [if they make the final and it’s in Johannesburg].”
While Rennie again pointed out his side had won six times from six on return from South Africa or Argentina before last year’s semifinal defeat, he said that loss in the capital would make them better for this time. While he didn’t label the changes in preparation as significant ones, the finer points were the crucial factors, he felt.
“All I’ll say is we stripped a lot of things back. We’ve looked at everything, we’ve looked at all the science best practice, and then adopted what we thought would suit us based on the time we’re going to play the game, and so on, so there’s been a number of things.
“I certainly feel we’re in a lot better place now than we were this time last year.”
Rennie said the advantage of the travel was that it allowed plenty of time for game analysis while on the plane, and that he feels they used that time well, also sitting down with key decision makers and making sure those leaders had clarity around their plans. Then this week it’s been about building into things, with a fairly normal structure to the back-end of the week, ahead of a flight to Christchurch on Friday.
“In the end it’s around recovery, getting the mind right and getting the body right, and then about convincing ourselves we’re ready to go,” Rennie said.
“We’ve had success down there in the past, we know we’re playing a really good side who’s probably been the form team of the comp, but we’ll back ourselves to go down there and we’re going to have to play well.
“In the end, because we didn’t win our pool, we knew we had to travel. So you’ve just got to get your head around it and embrace it.”
The 17-11 win in Cape Town was not a pretty performance – the Chiefs limited to one try in the match for just the second time this season (the other being the win over the Force in Perth) – and, while no big tweaks are required, they’ll be hoping they can find some more polish, as well as looking at dishing up a few secret plays the Crusaders wouldn’t be so familiar with.
“What we know is they’re a sharp outfit down there and they’ll study us, and we want to be able to shock them with a couple of little things,” Rennie said. “But in the end, we know how they’re going to play, they know how we’re going to play, it’s just about doing the little things really well.”
Rennie confirmed midfielder Charlie Ngatai is available after missing the quarterfinal trip with an ankle injury, but it looks likely Stephen Donald will remain at second five-eighth anyway, after a fine display against the Stormers, so it may be a matter of whether they want Ngatai in the back reserves in place of Tim Nanai-Williams or Shaun Stevenson.