Chiefs searching for a better balance in attack

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014
Tom Coventry
MARK TAYLOR/ Fairfax NZ
FORWARDS COACH: Tom Coventry.

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The Chiefs might have spectacularly escaped with a bonus-point draw at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria at the weekend, but forwards coach Tom Coventry says they can't keep relying solely on long-range attack.

The back-to-back Super Rugby champions and current New Zealand Conference leaders are instead searching for a better balance to their attack game as they prepare to take on the bottom-placed Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this Sunday morning (NZ time 2am).

Coventry said from Bloemfontein last night their long-range attacking game had been good enough to get them back in the Bulls match, coming from 16 points down with 11 minutes to play to claim a 34-34 draw in Pretoria and the three competition points that went with it.

''But to leave it to the death - there was a bit of desperation obviously at the end.

''I don't think [our attacking game] is anywhere near where it needs to be yet. We still make a lot of errors and we're not calculated enough sometimes with our opportunities to really put teams away.

''I felt there were more opportunities that we squandered than we took and that's being really critical because this competition is about getting a result and sometimes you have to do it any way you can, but ideally we're looking for the perfect game.''

Coventry said they were lucky that when their attack needed to be really good it usually was.

''But we can't always rely on it to be that good, we need to be in the right parts of the field sometimes as well, apply more pressure and maybe be a little bit more clinical with all aspects of our game.''

He described it as being Catch-22 to some extent.

''You focus on trying to get the ball down the other end of the field and you miss opportunities to run when the game is all about scoring tries.

''We don't want to get to a stage either where we end up playing the South African style of football where you go from set-piece to set-piece, because that suits them no end.''

One thing the Chiefs are expecting is more teams targeting their struggling lineout and the problems they have had in the last two matches defending the driving lineout maul.

''It's a big part of their game. They grow up with it over here.

''We were lucky enough to have a university team training against us leading up to the Bulls match and even a university team showed their prowess at mauling against us.

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''It's something that maybe in New Zealand we've forgotten a little bit about and there are technical issues we need to look at that are going to make us better at being able to stop it, but a lot of it's attitude.

''It's a difficult thing to stop when it gets going so we need to make sure we stop it at the source.''

While the Cheetahs were a different type of team to the Bulls, being more inventive and attack-minded with their back play, they still enjoyed mauling and driving and had beaten the Bulls before embarking on a relatively unsuccessful Australasian tour.

Meanwhile Chiefs tighthead prop Ben Afeaki has been sent home from South Africa after suffering another head injury in training last week.

Afeaki, who was replaced on the bench against the Bulls by Josh Hohneck, has been replaced in the touring party by wider training group prop Nick Barrett.

Coventry said Afeaki suffered a recurrence of the concussion symptoms that had previously cleared following a head clash between the player and lock Brodie Retallick in the opening match of the season against the Crusaders on February 21.

''Anything to do with head injuries is concerning, particularly in light of the issue being pretty big globally in lots of different sports so we're conscious of health-first with Ben and we don't want to muck around with that sort of injury.

''It is a concern going forward but we've got some pretty good people looking after him at home and here so hopefully he'll get through it,'' Coventry said.

- Waikato Times

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