The Chiefs must start from scratch and set new goals if they are to keep progressing after winning their first Super Rugby title this year, backs coach Wayne Smith says.
Having reached the pinnacle in the first season of the current coaching and playing group, some would say the only way for the Chiefs to go is down but Smith is adamant that won't happen.
"For a start the way we play you can see we're optimists, we play an optimistic style of rugby, we've got an attacking mindset and we've got to be the same right through the season," Smith said. "We can improve on where we were last season. Past success guarantees nothing but it does say that you can do it.
"Effectively we've got to start again and not take anything for granted. We've created a great spirit and huge bond here and I think we've got to do all that again."
"Recreate it and dot all i's cross the t's, get a sense of belonging in the area, sense of heritage and legacy - how we want to be seen and what we want to leave and I think if we do all that properly we can recreate what we did last year."
While Smith doesn't expect major changes to their approach next season, he said much depended on the players as they had a big say in what was done, although well established standards and values would not alter.
"People rise to a challenge if it's their challenge and don't necessarily rise to your challenge or my challenge so I think that was a really critical part of what we did and we won't know till we get together," Smith said.
The Chiefs officially start pre-season training on December 10.
Smith has just returned from a two-week coaching stint in Scotland, which he found hectic but enjoyed his chance to visit the country where his paternal grandparents came from.
He worked with Glasgow Warriors coach and former Scottish international Gregor Townsend, who spent some time with the Chiefs in Hamilton during this year's Super Rugby season, and Michael Bradley at Edinburgh, while also running coaching courses with club and school coaches in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
"So it was hard work, a lot of hours, but I met some great people."
Smith's philosophy is that coaching ideas should be shared.
"Because I love the game and I want people to watch the game and start loving it too, so I always share what we're doing and try to talk a lot about attacking football and the way we play in New Zealand."
Smith said he had also learnt a lot from the trip, particularly during his time at Glasgow Warriors.
"They do a lot of good analysis of the game . . . and some of their forward coaching techniques are pretty good.
"Gregor's particularly good as a coach as well in a general sense and Michael Bradley at Edinburgh, I got some good ideas out of him.
"My view is you share an idea you always get one back, so that's part of the reason for getting around and doing this sort of stuff," he said.
CHIEFS DEVELOP ALL-WEATHER TRAINING GROUND
The Chiefs don't expect to have to leave their Ruakura training base next year to train elsewhere once the winter wet sets in thanks to a new quarter million dollar investment.
The Ruakura training field has been excavated and relaid as a sand-based field with extensive drainage and automatic irrigation.
This year the field, until then having only been used mostly for social sports activities like businesshouse cricket, became waterlogged and muddy over the last quarter of the Super Rugby season, forcing the Chiefs to move their training sessions to all-weather grounds such as Beetham Park on the other side of Hamilton.
Chiefs marketing manager Sean Austin said the work, done with the support of the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre, had required "a significant investment" of about $250,000 from the Chiefs.
On top of that the Perrys Group had donated all the sand for the project, worth about $80,000.
"This is a fully sand-based field, but not like Waikato Stadium with a membrane and deeper excavation. The contractors dug down 400mm and replaced that dirt with gravel and sand."
As a team sponsor, BNZ provided a loan to cover the cost of the project.
Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith said the ability to train year-round on a firm, properly drained sand-based surface that was also forgiving on players' legs was as important as that surface being at their Ruakura HQ.
"I think a sense of belonging is important and when we built this place the boys had a big role to play in putting it together - knocking walls down, painting - and the next step has been upgrading the field," Smith said.
"That sense of having our own club is important and at the end of the last Super Rugby season the field was pretty knackered, it was wet and muddy and we couldn't really train here.
"It meant we had to keep finding different venues at which to train."
The new field will not be ready to train on until late January so the Chiefs will still need to find alternative training fields until then for their pre-season work, but Smith said that fitted with their plans anyway.
"I think at the beginning of the season we're going to emulate what we did last year and get around the community, train at different schools and make sure we've got some real connections going on with people right around our region.
"I think that's important, so early in the season it's not such a major thing, but it's just at the end of the season that it made it difficult and having this field will really alleviate that and give us a great training surface for the whole year."
The Chiefs have also flattened and sanded a paddock area alongside their headquarters building at Ruakura to provide a skills training area, particularly for forwards to practice things like scrummaging and mauling.
"Over time we might put a synthetic surface down with a top over it to make it all-weather, but we haven't done anything major there yet because this [the training field] is quite a big expenditure and is No 1 priority for us," Smith said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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