Rennie confident Chiefs can bounce back

HARD TO HANDLE: Chiefs flanker Sam Cane tries to get hold of Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty.
HARD TO HANDLE: Chiefs flanker Sam Cane tries to get hold of Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is in no doubt his team can turn things around quickly and beat the Blues to claim a Super Rugby top-two spot this weekend.

Coming off last Friday night's 43-15 thumping at the hands of the Crusaders in Christchurch, the Chiefs had the stuffing knocked out of them at a crucial time of the season with just one regular season game left to play.

But Rennie believes the Chiefs' shortcomings in that match can all be put right in time for Saturday night's match at Eden Park where the Chiefs can secure either a first or second place finish that would give them both a home semifinal and a bye in the qualifiers involving the third to sixth-placed sides.

In the Chiefs' favour will be the fact the Blues have to travel back from South Africa, their 34-13 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein having ended their faint playoff hopes.

But teams can react in one of two ways to such a disappointment and Chiefs v Blues matches always have an added edge by virtue of their neighbourly rivalry.

For the Chiefs it is all about how they react and Rennie, his coaching staff and his players are all determined they will rebound strongly, take their fate out of the hands of others and get the three points needed to guarantee them a top-two finish.

In reality that means a win over the Blues, and Rennie said their focus was entirely on achieving that rather than aiming for the one point needed to secure victory in the New Zealand Conference ahead of the Crusaders if the latter get maximum points against the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Friday night.

"We're not thinking of one point to win a conference because in the end you finish third and you get a home playoff game [but no bye], but we're already in that position [unable to finish lower than fourth]. So it's all about winning," he said.

Rennie admitted his team had been "outmuscled, out-thought, outplayed and probably out-coached as well".

"That was a quality performance and they'll be buoyed by that, but we know we've got a hell of a lot more in us and we were just a couple of cogs off in all areas."

A full training week this week would be all about turning that around. While they were a long way from where they needed to be to win the championship again it was mostly mental adjustments that needed to be made.

"It can be [a setback] if you let it be. We've got to look at things from a positive point of view and our destiny is still in our hands in regard to getting a home semi.

"So we've got to take the good things that we've been doing. All the hard work we've done during the year has put us in a situation where we can afford to drop a game and still have a chance to get a home semi.

"We won't be too down on it. The boys are really disappointed but we'll work hard this week and we'll rectify it on Saturday. The key is that we come out with a solution of what we want to do and it won't be too far different from what we've been trying to do, but there might be attitude adjustments, might be tweaking a couple of things in our programme or the way we're playing.

"So I've got no doubt that we'll turn things around quickly."

The Chiefs had to play without co-captain Liam Messam when a disc problem in his back suffered in the gym last Monday failed to clear up in time, but Rennie said the loss could not be put down to that.

"He makes a big difference to our group, no doubt about that, but we've got a lot of depth and we had a good enough side on the field to do the job."

Messam still needs to pass a fitness test in order to play against the Blues, but is improving, while Sam Cane (head knock) and Charlie Ngatai (foot injury) also need to prove their fitness after injuries in Christchurch.

Waikato Times