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Embarrassment drove Chiefs

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:12
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The two-time defending champion Chiefs will go back into their memory banks for motivation ahead of their trip to Canberra on Saturday.

They will attempt to overturn their round-robin defeat to the Brumbies in the first of the two preliminary qualifiers.

Their trip will be fuelled by a heightened sense of self-belief and fun.

The last time the Chiefs went to Canberra to play the Brumbies in April they came back reeling from a 41-23 thumping.

However, both coach Dave Rennie and co-captain Liam Messam said it will be different this time.

"We got embarrassed a couple of times this year, but that only made us stronger," Messam said.

Rennie believes the odds that were stacked heavily against the Chiefs last time they went there were more balanced this time.

"The last time we played in Canberra we had a six-day week [to prepare], with the travel thrown in [which takes most of a day], so having eight days this time is a lot better," Rennie said.

"It gives us a chance to train but also give the boys a day off this week."

Aaron Cruden, the other co-captain, said bringing back the enjoyment factor at the end of a difficult season has put his team in with a chance of defending their title.

After losing in successive weeks to the Hurricanes, Waratahs and Highlanders, the former a 45-8 humiliation in Wellington, few outside the franchise believed they would make the play-offs.

But a renaissance sparked by their win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton and continued in last Friday's 11-8 arm-wrestle over the Blues, along with a bit of luck, has seen them sneak into fifth spot.

"A lot of people outside our group have probably doubted us for most of the year," Cruden said.

"At times it's probably been vindicated, I guess, the fact that we haven't performed well. But the belief through the whole season in the squad has been really good.

"We thought if we just keep doing what we're doing and really get the enjoyment factor back into it then we'd be able to make a push through the play-offs.

"The last few weeks have been really good. The boys have brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm towards training and around the base and I think you can see that on the field."

The last time the Chiefs played in Canberra they were also without several injured players, including Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Tanerau Latimer, but apart from those already gone for the season they may only be without midfield back Charlie Ngatai this week.

Ngatai's shoulder is coming right quickly, but Rennie said he was doubtful for this week, while hooker Mahonri Schwalger is expected to recover from a dislocated shoulder to be available for the trip.

Rennie said there were a number of things that worked against them in Canberra last time in addition to what in hindsight had been a disrupted preparation.

"They were really up for it. Obviously they'd had a week off [for their bye], it was Anzac Day and they had a special jersey for it and there was a lot of talk about payback for the final here last year, so it was a pretty big occasion for them.

"And they probably coped with it better than we did."

Sources: Waikato Times & APNZ

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