Chiefs' Rennie calling for fairer referee scrutiny
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has called for referees and assistant referees not to go into Super Rugby's playoffs with preconceived ideas.
Rennie and his fellow coaches and players believe their team have been monitored more closely and as a result more heavily penalised than their opposition in many matches this season.
Going into tonight's qualifier match against the Brumbies in Canberra, the Chiefs have conceded more penalties/free kicks than other side in the 2014 Super Rugby championship and have often felt being back-to-back champions has led to the extreme scrutiny from the officials.
Mostly they have not complained and just got on with the job of trying to get their players to be more disciplined.
But they have still averaged 13.1 penalties/free kicks against them per match, while being awarded the fewest in the competition - 8.8 per match.
Now head coach Rennie is saying the stakes are just too high in the knockout phase to put up with the uneven scrutiny of those officiating their games.
"Obviously we're hooked up to the referee and hear the feed coming from them and the assistant referees as well," Rennie said.
"We find that very frustrating because there tends to be a real focus on us and because of that we find they miss some really obvious things from the opposition team.
"Our preference would be for them to just come into the game without any preconceived ideas and just referee what they see. I think if they do that they'll get a better result and get a clearer picture."
Rennie said they had noticed over the last couple of weeks that some really obvious infringements from opposition sides had not been picked up because of the focus on what the Chiefs were doing.
They would be seeking a pre-match meeting with tonight's referee Craig Joubert to discuss that area in particular.
"To be honest most of the time we just take things on the chin. We find it frustrating but there's not a lot of point in grizzling about it, we just get on with it.
"But obviously [this week] it could be the difference between playing next week or going through reviews and stuff so we just want to make sure we get a fair crack at it and the refs don't come in with any preconceived ideas."
Rennie admits there are still penalties that are his players' own fault and said they also had to take responsibility for being smarter in that area.
"We can't afford to give away soft penalties against the Brumbies because they'll get field position from us and try and strangle us down there.
"Certainly, everyone's aware of the importance of it and we've got to be a lot better," he said.
Tonight's two teams have almost identical statistics in a number of attack areas, while the Chiefs have a clear advantage in terms of their tackle efficiency on defence and the Brumbies are the most efficient at recycling ball through rucks and not turning it over.
The Chiefs have picked up their set-piece work in the last couple of weeks and that is going to be crucial against the Brumbies tonight with their big scrum, anchored by the front row of Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger and Jamie Mackintosh, needing to make a better start to the match than it has been tending to do.
"[The Brumbies] have got a very good set-piece and they'll scrum and drive for penalties so we need to front really well in that area.
"I think certainly our scrum has been getting better and better and when you've got Tama [Tameifuna] who is full of beans and been playing 80 minutes and you've got Woppa [Mackintosh] and Pauli [Pauliasi Manu] it's very solid."
The scrum Manu had locked up on their own line when down to seven men had been particularly impressive.
"I think scrum-wise we're going all right and the lineout's improve heaps with of course Mo's [Schwalger's] throwing has been massive in regard to that so it's going to be crucial as if we get a good set-piece at the weekend then we're in with a show."
That forward improvement overall has enabled the Chiefs to not only dominate defensively but also launch their attack more and more after only going in fits and starts for much of the season, poor finishing their greatest weakness.
The Chiefs expect the Brumbies to kick a lot for territory and do most of their attacking in the visitors' half of the field.
It will be the possession battle that decides who has the gain-line advantage and it will also be the quality of the Chiefs' counter-attack in response to the home team's kicking game that will go a long way to launching their best scoring chances.
AT A GLANCE
Brumbies: 2001, 2004
Chiefs: 2012, 2013
Brumbies: 1997, 2000, 2002, 2013
Super 15 results
2014 regular season: Brumbies 41 Chiefs 23 at Canberra
2013 final: Chiefs 27 Brumbies 22 at Hamilton
2012 regular season: Chiefs 29 Brumbies 22 at Tauranga
2011 regular season: Brumbies 28 Chiefs 20 at Canberra
2014 Super Rugby regular season
Brumbies: Played 16 won 10 lost 6; points for 412, against 378; bonus points 5, points 45, 4th
Chiefs: Played 16 won 8 lost 6 drawn 2; points for 384, against 378, bonus points 8, points 44, 5th
Tries scored (ranked in competition)
Brumbies: 47, 3rd
Chiefs: 44, 5th
Brumbies: 290, 3rd
Chiefs: 217, 13th
Top points scorer
Brumbies: Nic White, 105
Chiefs: Aaron Cruden, 94
Top try scorer
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Matt Toomua, Robbie Coleman, 7
Chiefs: Tim Nanai-Williams, 6
ACT BRUMBIES: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Robbie Coleman, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (captain), Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Leon Power, Sam Carter, Ben Alexander, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Reserves: Ruaidhri Murphy, Ruan Smith, Allan Alaalatoa, Fotu Auelua, Tom McVerry, Michael Dowsett, Joe Tomane, Pat McCabe.
CHIEFS: Dwayne Sweeney, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Tim Nanai-Williams, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (captain), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Squire, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Mike Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Pauliasi Manu, Nick Barrett, Matt Symons, Tevita Koloamatangi, Augustine Pulu, Gareth Anscombe, Tom Marshall.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)