Champion Chiefs look to stay ahead of the pack

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013

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The Chiefs were heavily scrutinised by referees this year in the wake of their inaugural Super Rugby title in 2012 and it has forced them to change the way they approach the tackle area.

Trying to stay ahead of the chasing pack means they have sought to change things up anyway, but assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge said they felt they had been picked on by the refs in 2013 and were forced to change what they were doing.

"Some of the rules are pretty dodgy, very grey, about who you can deal with around the edges of rucks, so we forced the hand of the referees a little bit to explain to us who is involved and who isn't and what we can or cannot do," Strawbridge said.

"It's no secret we were looked at pretty closely last year, but it's an area we put a lot of emphasis on, and we have made a few shifts - which I'm not going to talk about - for this coming season. We've adjusted things slightly."

The change was needed because they had to satisfy the referees they were operating within the laws the way the latter were interpreting them.

"It doesn't matter what we think, in the end if someone is giving penalties against you, you've got to adjust."

Strawbridge said it appeared to him that if a team won the competition they came under very close scrutiny.

"The referees are a suspicious bunch and they think if you win, you are probably doing something underhanded or untoward, and they double-check everything you do and we came under the microscope because of that."

The Chiefs coaches have also analysed in detail what they need to change up generally in both their game and their training to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

While Strawbridge was just as reluctant to reveal any details of changes to their game approach as he was to talk about what they were planning to do differently at the breakdowns, he admitted shifts had been made.

"We spend a lot of time talking about that as coaches - the way we train, what we do at training, aspects of our game.

"We're not too sophisticated and I think if people sit down and spend any time analysing our game they can sort out that we're a same-way team so we're looking to change things up a little bit this year, absolutely.

"And you've got to keep it fresh - the players deserve that," he said.

Strawbridge, who will shift his coaching role slightly this season to be more involved with the defence rather than exclusively attack, said they were looking at the way they dealt with the physical aspects of the game pre-season and the contact parts of the game.

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"Introducing speed and evasiveness and footwork is a little bit different than what we've done before.

"We're just trying to keep ahead of the game and it's a stop-start, slow down-speed up race game and we're just trying to become more efficient at that.

"Everything's a race in rugby - trying to win the space in lineouts, trying to get the first hit in the scrum, trying to be the first cleaner before the opposition assist tackler gets there - so we just wanted to become efficient at that so that's an edge we think we can possibly get."

- Waikato Times

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