It's up to the players now, says Wayne Smith

WAYNE SMITH: "This time of year you could have monkeys coaching probably."
WAYNE SMITH: "This time of year you could have monkeys coaching probably."

Wayne Smith has coached the All Blacks, but he doesn't believe his or his fellow coaches' expertise will be a key factor this week as the Chiefs prepare for Saturday's Super Rugby final.

"This time of year you could have monkeys coaching probably," Smith said.

"You've still got to go through your routines and keep them the same, but the baton needs to be passed to the players and they need to take accountability for the performance and that's what we expect."

Smith says there is a whole lot of hunger in the group to do just that and to make good their season aim of achieving back-to-back trophies after last year's title success, but his vast experience tells him this week comes down to the team's leaders as they prepare to host Canberra's Brumbies at Waikato Stadium.

"Our leaders were probably the best players on the field on the weekend - guys like Craig Clarke, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Tanerau Latimer, Sam Cane when he came on and Aaron Cruden.

"They were critical and they were also critical during the week, so how they go this week and how they go at the weekend is really important to this team.

"They are a real key part of any strategy we've got."

However, Smith has played a part in the BTB (Back to Back) theme the Chiefs have built up throughout the season, encouraging the whole squad from the start to embrace being champions and being the team everyone else wants to beat.

He urged the players before the season got under way to walk towards the pressure of that and not shy away from wearing targets on their backs.

"[The final] is where we want to be and you can't be here unless you are able to do that all season," Smith said.

"We've had teams gunning for us. Whenever we've played away it's been [the other team's] biggest game and that's been different for the Chiefs."

Having got to the top of the log in the regular season meant they must have done it right but knockout football at this time of year was a different beast.

"Last week was very much ‘enjoy it, enjoy each other, welcome the challenge and show our character because we didn't show our character when we played [the Crusaders] in Christchurch and we were embarrassed by that.

"It wasn't so much about outcome but let's be proud of ourselves and show that we deserve to be where we are - put a performance in we could be proud of.

"Show our heart, show our character, show what we're about and that's what we got."

This week is similar but obviously there is no make-good factor, the Chiefs having not played the Brumbies previously this season.

"We've done a lot of work on the Brumbies in a hurry. I know I personally have done a lot of work, the other coaches have done a lot of work and the boys have now come up to speed with them and are starting to understand what a smart all-round team they and what a good coaching group they've got.

"They've got some big players who have come out of a big series with the Lions and there's also a wee reminder that when the Chiefs played the [2009 final] in Pretoria it was 61-17 [to the Bulls] and when the Brumbies played a playoff game there at the weekend they won.

"It takes a special team bond and special spirit to be able to do that so we've just got to recognise that they're coming here and they're going to be at their best."

Smith said the Brumbies all appeared clear about their roles and their game plan and were smart about how they went about implementing that.

"They do it well and they do it hard. We're in for a real challenge," he said.

Waikato Times