Super Rennie breaks new ground

Sat, 04 Aug 2012 14:49
Large plumtree   rennie 630

Dave Rennie became the first rookie coach to win a Super Rugby title when he guided the Chiefs to a 37-6 win over the Sharks in Saturday's Super Rugby Final.

Dave Rennie became the first rookie coach to win a Super Rugby title when he guided the Chiefs to a 37-6 win over the Sharks in Saturday's Super Rugby Final.

Rennie joined the Chiefs' this season, taking over from Ian Foster at New Zealand's most under-achieving franchise.

With some judicious recruitment - notably All Blacks flyhalf Aaron Cruden and star centre Sonny Bill Williams - along with the help of World Cup-winning New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith, Rennie led the Chiefs to their first Super Rugby championship in only their second final.

He previously coached Manawatu province and the New Zealand Under-20 team which won the Junior World Championships. He also coached Wellington, as did New Zealand-born Sharks coach John Plumtree.

Based in Hamilton, New Zealand's fifth-largest city, the Chiefs are the smallest of its five Super Rugby franchises and until this year, the most under-achieving of the New Zealand sides.

In 17 years they had reached a final only once before, in 2009 when they were beaten 61-17 by the Pretoria-based Bulls - the largest defeat in a final in the tournament's history.

Rennie reshaped the team this season, tailoring a game plan to its obvious strengths and, most importantly, imbuing his players with the level of confidence that Chiefs teams of the past had rarely displayed.

Under his leadership, the Chiefs won 12 of their 16 regular season matches and finished top of the New Zealand Conference, heading off the seven-time champion Crusaders.

They won one and lost one match against the Crusaders during the longest regular season in tournament history but won the all-important clash in the semi-finals 20-17.

Rennie, with the help of forwards coach Tom Coventry, built a strong and efficient forward pack around underrated players such as lock and captain Craig Clarke, Samoan internationals Mahonri Schwalger and Kane Thompson, and All Blacks back rowers Tanerau Latimer and Liam Messam.

He also discovered a star in Tongan loosehead prop Sona Taumalolo, who was the team's leading try-scorer with nine five-pointers.

With help from Rennie, flanker Sam Cane and lock Brodie Retallick became All Blacks for the first time this year.

Cruden became the fulcrum of a dangerous backline which maximized the line-breaking abilities of Sonny Bill Williams and which had slick finishers at fullback and on the wings.

The Chiefs were able to sustain an unprecedented level of performance throughout the season, securing a home final when the Sharks upset the top-ranked Stormers, and going on to become only the sixth team to win a Super Rugby title.

Rennie typically deflected all credit for that achievement onto his players.

"The culture's been great," he said. "You saw the boys doing a haka (Maori challenge). They've been a really tight group and enjoy each other's company and they've worked hard for each other and been there as a team for each other."

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