NZ Rugby World
CHIEFS HAVE CHIEF PROBLEM
The big surprise of Super Rugby Aotearoa was that the Chiefs, who had been playing well before the lockdown, failed to win a game after it.
They didn't play horribly but they lacked the cohesion and attacking flair to actually deliver a single victory. Their loss to the Highlanders when they led 31-7 after 45 minutes was particularly hard to take and it indicated that there may be some deeper problems at the club.
The issue may lie in the contract they agreed with incoming coach Warren Gatland as it is one that doesn't make huge sense.
Gatland was signed on a four-year deal that will allow him to miss the 2021 season as he will be coaching the British & Irish Lions.
That meant the club had to hire a replacement for him next year, which will be Clayton McMillan, who will then have to giveway again in 2022 when Gatland returns.
It's frankly a mad idea and one that has compromised the club entirely as they are holding a job for a coach whose record was zero wins from eight games – the worst run of successive defeats the Chiefs have ever known.
What if McMillan delivers a title, or even a seriously good campaign where the Chiefs are greatly improved? How will that look when he has to stand down to give the winless Gatland his job back?
Not great is the answer and the problem is likely to be exacerbated as neither of the two current assistants, Tabai Matson or Neil Barnes are believed to be staying at the Chiefs.
It feels like the situation is a bit of a mess and that the lesson learned here is that the Chiefs should have either not offered the one-year sabbatical to Gatland and made him choose between Super Rugby and the Lions.
Or not offered him the job at all, given he was already committed to the Lions when they approached him.