Unbeaten Chiefs aim to keep running the ball
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie is hoping forecast thunderstorms will have passed through Perth by the time his team takes on the Force there tonight, intent on continuing their attacking approach.
After scoring five tries in their first two matches, the unbeaten Chiefs last week added a third win in as many fixtures but this time doubled their try tally to grab their first bonus point.
Last year the back-to-back Super Rugby champions scored more tries (50) and more try-scoring bonus points (six) than any other side, but struggled in their first two outings this year to get enough possession to launch their attack into top gear and had to battle for their wins.
They are looking to continue in similar vein as last week when they come up against a Force team, which has also hit try-scoring form in their last two outings with back-to-back bonus-point victories but in seven clashes between the two teams have only ever won one.
"It's been sunny since we've been here and yesterday we trained in 34-32 degrees and a very dry heat compared to the humidity back in Hamilton," Rennie said from Perth yesterday.
"But they are expecting thunderstorms and it has been a bit drizzly today."
However, Rennie was hoping the wet weather will have passed through by the time they kick off at midnight (NZ time) and said the temperatures generally cooled in Perth by game time.
"Our preference is to play in the dry," he said.
Whether the full-on, attack-from-all-parts-of-the-field approach that was employed so successfully against a well-analysed Stormers defence last week, will again be used tonight would depend on the type of defence the Force used.
"We still want to play but it will be what we see in front of us."
That meant if the defence was set deep and turning in like the Stormers they would look to attack wide from everywhere, but if it was flatter then there would be more kicking.
"We think there are certainly opportunities to play against these guys with a bit of ball in hand and that's what we want to do."
The Chiefs still have the worst lineout success rate (but best scrum success rate) in the competition at 70.27 per cent but Rennie felt they were improving in that area with hooker Mahonri Schwalger and lock Brodie Retallick having now had more time together training and playing.
Rennie and his coaching team have again made changes this week, but not as many as previous weeks, with just All Black openside flanker Sam Cane and lock Mike Fitzgerald coming into the pack in place of Tanerau Latimer and Matt Symons.
The injuries to backs Charlie Ngatai and James Lowe, along with the heart problems that have sidelined Robbie Fruean have necessitated two personnel changes and one positional one to the backline.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma returns to the left wing and All Blacks centurion Mils Muliaina to the right wing with Tim Nanai-Williams shifting in one spot to centre where he established himself last season.
Rennie said Cane was "in good nick" and ready to go after returning from the knee injury that delayed his start to the season after a strong pre-season showing, his return allowing Tanerau Latimer a chance to freshen up on the bench.
The decision to play Nanai-Williams ahead of Andrew Horrell at centre had been a close call but they had wanted to get Muliaina on the field on the wing. While Tom Marshall was a workhorse at No 12 they wanted to place some x-factor alongside him in the midfield.
"Tim was pretty electric there last year."
Horrell will cover six positions off the bench and will likely be the first back called upon when substitutions are made, while Rennie had every faith in 18-year-old wider training group member Anton Leinert-Brown to also make an impact when called upon after an impressive pre-season.
The Force have lost their strong ball-carrying No 8 Ben McCalman to suspension for this match but do get back Wallaby Hugh McMeniman in the No 6 jersey after a back injury and have replaced McCalman with Angus Cottrell.