Chiefs have to repeat their 2013 bounce-back
The Chiefs expect to be written off by rivals and fans after their walloping at the hands of the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday night, but their coach has other ideas.
Despite falling flat on their faces 45-8 at Westpac Stadium they at least know they've come back from a similarly heavy defeat and won the Super Rugby title before.
The only trouble is, the situation is a little more dire than when last year they rebounded from a 43-15 away loss to the Crusaders to win their last regular season match away to the Blues, clinch the New Zealand Conference and finish top overall to grab a home semifinal and final.
''It was an absolute bath in the end but we've been here before,'' said Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie yesterday.
''It will be how we bounce back that will be the test of the character of this group.''
Last year they needed three points from their last game to get a home semi and ended up winning with a bonus point and other results falling their way.
This time they are now fourth in the conference but only two points behind new leaders the Crusaders with four games to go.
But just like 2013 it is all about needing a major attitude adjustment in their next game.
All last week Rennie stressed how crucial attitude would be in their New Zealand Conference derby against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium.
But instead he got a flat performance from his troops who were demolished 45-8 - six tries to one - by a far more desperate and polished Hurricanes outfit.
Now they have to pick up the pieces, come up with a game plan and this time implement it successfully with an intensity and accuracy that was lacking in Wellington when they take on the Australian Conference-leading Waratahs in New Plymouth on Saturday afternoon (4.35pm).
''We came up against a side that were obviously desperate and far more desperate than we were, so that's disappointing.
''The frustrating thing is we created a lot of opportunities, built a bit of pressure and had chances where we should have scored but we weren't accurate enough and clinical enough.
''But they scrambled really well and of course we made some errors that they went the length of the field from. They're pretty potent in that area, which we were well aware of,'' Rennie said.
The Chiefs certainly seemed to gather up all the little flaws - from lineouts to ball retention to discipline to lack of intensity and accuracy - that have shown up in their game at different times during the season and brought them all out on show at the weekend against a white-hot team that didn't need a second invitation to take advantage.
It was close to being their worst performance under Rennie's charge, but he was unsure where to rate it in terms of previous performances.
''But it's fair to say it wasn't good enough and there is a lot of soul searching going on,'' he said.
The Chiefs are certainly analysing their preparation week and checking whether the absence of the All Blacks for the first two days had any bearing.
''There will be some lessons learnt from it and we've got to do some of the little things a lot better.
''But so much about our game is mental and we were certainly very flat.
''We got outmuscled and out-passioned and they were clinical and we weren't, which is why the scoreline read the way it did.''
Rennie said any loss brought a lot of accountability within the Chiefs group and plenty of time had already been spent on that yesterday.
But it had always been good for the Chiefs in the past when others had written them off.
''It was a hell of a shellacking so you can understand why people might say that, but we're a pretty determined bunch so I guess our job now is to turn things around quickly,'' he said.
The Waratahs have a number of strengths similar to the Hurricanes, but the Chiefs know they have to win this weekend or they will drift too far off the pace in what is an incredibly close race for conference honours.
The only new injuries from Wellington were to props Pauliasi Manu (rolled ankle) and Ben Tameifuna (leg) but Rennie did not expect either to affect selection this week.
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