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Chiefs need mental shift

Sat, 20 Jul 2013 14:18
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The defending champion Chiefs, apart from injury concerns, will also need to make a major mental shift ahead of their Super Rugby semifinal.

The defending champion Chiefs, apart from injury concerns, will also need to make a major mental shift ahead of their Super Rugby semifinal.

Following the Crusaders' 38-9 demolition of the Reds in Christchurch on Saturday, it is likely the seven-time champions will arrive in Hamilton next week to face the Chiefs - unless of course the Cheetahs can upset the Brumbies on Sunday.

But, for now, the Chiefs are concerning themselves with a few of their own issues.

 The Chiefs will miss the X-factor of Tim Nanai-Williams, but are hoping two of their heavyweight forwards will shake off injuries to make the big game.

Brodie Retallick (ankle sprain) and Ben Afeaki (back) are the main worries for the defending champs, with Nanai Williams out of the picture with knee and groin problems.

However, the biggest adjustment will be of a mental nature, according to coach Dave Rennie - following another flat finish to the regular season.

"We haven't been clinical enough the last couple of weeks," he said of the team's performances in the last fortnight - which include a 15-43 loss to the Crusaders and a sloppy 26-16 win over the Blues.

"Anyone could win this from here. If anything last week has given us a little bit more edge, and there's a lot of excitement because we're in the position we wanted to be."

Asked what last year's experience had taught the Chiefs, assistant coach Wayne Smith said: "Don't change too much.

"There's always a perception you've got to rest up and peak, but in my experience that never works. You've got to keep going, and keep doing your methodical consistent behaviour you do every week and don't back off."

Chiefs co-captain Liam Messam - the only player in the franchise to play over 100 games - knows the value of experience.

And the co-captain believes the experience the bulk of this year's Chiefs squad have of Super Rugby play-offs after breaking through for their inaugural title last season will be invaluable over the next three weeks.

"We know we have to step up [from the 26-16 away win over the Blues last weekend], it's going to be a whole different level of intensity and our accuracy definitely needs to step up," Messam said.

"But we've got a whole lot of guys who have been there before so we know what it takes to get there and what intensity you need to bring come the semifinal."

Messam said the experience of 2012 was hugely beneficial and while some new players had not been involved in playoff football at this level before the majority had.

"If we can get our preparation right during the week and then can just come out and give 80 minutes for your mate next to you and hopefully come away with the win."

So who do the Chiefs think they might meet in the semi-final? The sixth-seeded Cheetahs need to upset the No.3 seeds, the Brumbies, in their quarterfinal in Canberra on Sunday to earn a trip to Hamilton and force the Crusaders (38-9 winners against the Reds) to travel to Pretoria to take on the No.2-seeded Bulls.

"I've got a funny feeling the Cheetahs might do a bit of an upset, because they play some pretty good footy and it's hard to defend. But we'll just have to wait till Sunday."

Source: Fairfax NZ News

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