NZ Rugby World
Running into Trouble
The Chiefs will be in no hurry to recall what transpired in the 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa season. It started out with some promise but ended in disaster as they went the full campaign without a win.
They were competitive throughout the competition, but never found a way to put the finishing touches on a game.
They come into the season with a similar squad, although Clayton McMillan has stepped into the head coaching role in place of Warren Gatland, who was always scheduled to miss 2021 due to his commitments with the British and Irish Lions.
As we saw in the inaugural Super Rugby Aotearoa season, there isn’t a whole lot that separates the five franchises, so even small improvements will help the Chiefs.
Two areas where they could look to shore up are their tackling percentage (second worst in 2020) and success at the scrum (second worst in 2020).
For the most part, don’t expect the Chiefs to change too much in their approach to the upcoming season. They’ll be active at the breakdown, with any combination of their available loose forwards providing threats the get over the ball, while their attack will rely on the running game provided by the likes of Damian McKenzie and Quinn Tupaea.
The big question facing the Chiefs this year is if they can get the most out of that running game, and whether or not they can adapt their attack if that isn’t working.
At times toward the back end of 2020, the Chiefs looked as though they had no ideas about how to get their attacking game working when the run was being stonewalled by the defence.
They only managed to cross the line 14 times in 2020 - nine times fewer than the next lowest try-scoring team.