Underdog Chiefs seek revenge

Thu, 25 Jul 2013 08:44
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The defending champion Chiefs have been written off ahead of this weekend's Super Rugby semifinal against the competition's glamour side, the Crusaders.

The defending champion Chiefs have been written off ahead of this weekend's Super Rugby semifinal against the competition's glamour side, the Crusaders.

However, they say they are comfortable with the underdog tag.

The Chiefs play the Crusaders in Hamilton in an all-New Zealand clash on Saturday.

The other semifinal will seen the South African conference champions, the Bulls, host Australian conference winners the Brumbies in Pretoria.

History favours the Chiefs and Bulls, the top two teams in the regular season, with the record books showing that in the 17-year history of Super Rugby only once has the crown gone to a side that did not host a semifinal.

That was when the seven-times champions Crusaders won in 1999, and after a slow start this year their scintillating form at the business end has raised speculation they could repeat the rare feat.

The Chiefs, already victims of Crusaders power when thrashed 43-15 in the penultimate round of the league, were impressed with how the Crusaders dispatched the Reds 38-9 last week.

"They're playing well at the moment. The whole country knows that, the whole world does, they have an international pack," said assistant coach Tom Coventry.

But head coach Dave Rennie added there was no need for alarm bells.

"I think most of the country is writing us off, which is not a bad thing, but we're happy with where we're heading and we've got a pretty happy bunch who are keen to make amends from the last time we played them."

The Chiefs beat the Crusaders the first time they met this year in May and have been bolstered by news All Blacks Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Ben Afeaki and Aaron Cruden are over niggles picked up in their last match against the Blues.

However, they are light in the midfield where Tim Nanai-Williams requires a groin operation.

The Crusaders, in their 12th consecutive semifinal and desperate to end a five-year title drought, have kept the same line-up that demolished the Reds.

That means Richie McCaw, returning from seven months away from the game, remains on the bench as coach Todd Blackadder retains the loose trio of Matt Todd, George Whitelock and Kieran Read who carried the Crusaders through the year.

"Those guys have played outstandingly well and by doing that we are putting the team first, and if you were to ask Richie he would say exactly the same," Blackadder said.

A Chiefs win means they will host next week's final while a Crusaders victory would make the Canterbury-based franchise travel to meet the winner of the Bulls-Brumbies semi where the South African's are overwhelming favourites.

The Chiefs' sandwiched their loss to the Crusaders between unconvincing wins over the Blues and Hurricanes and seem well short of the form which carried them to their first Super Rugby title last year.

The Chiefs have carefully analysed their heavy loss to the Crusaders and are confident of repairing the deficiencies that match highlighted.

"We were caught short, especially from an intensity point of view, so we can change that quickly because we can control that," Rennie said.

"We've been here before, we've played the Crusaders quite a bit over the last couple of years and so we know what to expect."
Sources: AFP & AP

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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 16 11 0 5 52
Brumbies 16 9 0 7 47
Rebels 16 7 0 9 36
Reds 16 4 0 12 22
Force 16 3 0 13 19
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 16 14 0 2 66
Highlanders 16 11 0 5 53
Chiefs 16 10 0 6 48
Crusaders 16 9 0 7 46
Blues 16 3 0 13 20
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 16 10 1 5 45
Lions 16 9 1 6 42
Bulls 16 7 0 9 38
Sharks 16 7 0 9 34
Cheetahs 16 5 0 11 26