Chiefs not focused on fond farewells
Don’t expect cries of ‘Do it for Dave’ to be echoing off the walls inside the visitors changing room at Newlands.
That’s despite the reality that any game now could be the one that marks the end of an era for the Chiefs.
Sunday morning’s Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Stormers in Cape Town is the first chance of the curtain drawing on the golden spell for the franchise under the watch of coach Dave Rennie, whose arrival in 2012 immediately reaped a maiden title, then a back-to-back championship in 2013 and playoffs berths every year since.
With the added overseas departure of three players who’ve been through that reign, in Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Hika Elliot, and James Lowe, Michael Leitch, Tom Sanders and assistant coach Kieran Keane all also confirmed to be going, the leaving crew could conceivably be used as a prime motivator for one big title push. However, that is not the case, with Rennie saying the squad would instead be energised by smaller targets.
‘‘We’re not talking about the end, we’re talking about the process,’’ he said. ‘‘So everything’s about making sure we’re prepared well and we’ve got attention to detail and then we bring the required intensity.
‘‘So there’s no talk being about this potentially being our last game and that sort of thing. It’s about getting it right and being excited by the chance to go home and have another crack against one of the Kiwis.’’
That would be next weekend in the form of the Crusaders in Christchurch or the Highlanders in Hamilton, in a draw which has been particularly unfavourable to the Chiefs.
‘‘It is what it is,’’ Rennie mused. ‘‘It’s a funny comp isn’t it, where we only lost two games this year, finished sixth. So, you’ve just got to get on with it.
‘‘We’re excited, chances are – and we’ve talked about this for a number of weeks – that if we’re going to win this, we’ll have to win it away from home. We’ve been here before, in this situation, and performed well.’’
The Chiefs only have to look back to the corresponding fixture last year to draw inspiration – where they hammered the Stormers 60-21.
However, that was the Stormers’ first meeting with Kiwi opposition in 2016, and they are now a more dangerous outfit, particularly at home, where they tipped up the Chiefs 34-26 in round seven.
Despite not getting to play the weaker Australian teams and having to foot it with the Kiwis this time, the Stormers have certainly upped their attacking prowess. They rank fourth in points scored and have notched 64 tries, compared to 49 at the same stage last year.
‘‘They have played a lot more footy,’’ Rennie said.
‘‘They’re still very keen on territory. And what we know is they attacked us round the fringes last time, and like all African sides, they’ll drive well. So we’ve certainly got to bar up in those areas.
‘‘I don’t think they’ll want to kick the ball too much to us, certainly if it’s not contestable. So I guess we’ve got to try and put them under pressure and force them to kick it when they don’t want to.’’
After missing the last Cape Town clash with injury, the Chiefs this time have co-captain Sam Cane, Nathan Harris and Nepo Laulala back up front, and with Dominic Bird relegated to a bench role behind the in-form Mitchell Brown, the onus will be on Brodie Retallick to be at his destructive and disruptive best.