Bring on Brumbies, Rennie ready for challenge
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie is not surprised the Brumbies are his team's opponents in the Super Rugby final and expects them to be more of a challenge than the Bulls would have been.
The third-seeded Brumbies travelled from Canberra to Pretoria and yesterday upset the second seeds in Pretoria 26-23 with a late try.
Now they must travel from South Africa to Hamilton to take on the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium in this Saturday's grand final after the Chiefs edged the Crusaders 20-19 there on Saturday night.
It will be the first time the two teams have met this season..
Last year the Chiefs held out the Brumbies 29-22 at Mt Maunganui in a scratchy performance.
The Bulls were the South African team the Chiefs did not play this year.
"I'm not surprised that they won; it's not easy though and it shows a bit about the spirit within that group," Rennie said of the Brumbies last night.
"They probably had been a bit rusty over the previous couple of weeks due to that long break they had through the Lions series but they were much better last night."
Rennie did not watch the Pretoria semifinal live but watched a replay later in the morning so he would only have to take notes on one team, knowing already who the winner was.
While the Brumbies had real clarity in the way they played, kicking a lot out of the defensive end and being very good in how they applied pressure with an aerial attack and chase, it also made it clear for a team planning how to combat them.
"They try to play all their footy down the right end. They've got a really strong set-piece and win a lot of penalties, especially from their scrum, so I don't think they'll change too much.
"They're very well coached, they've got a lot of strong rugby brains there with Jake [White] and Laurie Fisher as well as a couple of ex-Wallabies in the background so I think they present a real challenge - probably more so than the Bulls," he said.
The Chiefs have the luxury of being able to prepare for the match at home, while the Brumbies have to travel.
They will stick to normal routines for a Saturday match and not put much emphasis on the travel factor or the fact they will be farewelling at least five players who have signed overseas contracts - Richard Kahui [Japan], Craig Clarke [Ireland], Lelia Masaga [Japan], Toby Smith [Rebels] and Brendon Leonard [Italy].
"I know from experience the travel does play a little factor and it's awesome to prepare in your own facilities and have that extra day of training so it does make a bit of a difference," Chiefs co-captain Clarke said.
"But if you've got an experienced crew you can deal with that and maybe you have a lesser training mode but a real mental focus."
Rennie said the Chiefs wouldn't get "sucked into" the line of thinking that the Brumbies' travel fatigue would give them an advantage and would also not allow the emotion of departing players to distract them.
"We've travelled back from Africa the last two years and won both those games so it's very do-able for them.
"Similarly there will be some sentimental stuff in and around the boys leaving but the focus will be on performance," Rennie said.
The Chiefs have at least one serious injury concern after Saturday's win but Rennie refused to name the player at this stage.
He said he did not want to give any early cues away to the opposition but it would become apparent at training tomorrow who it was.
"We've got a few niggles but nothing I want to put in the press at this stage. There is probably one player who's got a question mark over how he's going to be and probably three or four guys who won't do too much Monday and Tuesday but be back in by Thursday."