Chiefs the new Crusaders

Pauliasi Manu illustrates the Chiefs' disappointment at the final whistle.
Pauliasi Manu illustrates the Chiefs' disappointment at the final whistle.
Augustine Pulu looks to break a Brumbies tackle.
Augustine Pulu looks to break a Brumbies tackle.
Brumbies second-five Pat McCabe is lifted off his feet in a Chiefs tackle.
Brumbies second-five Pat McCabe is lifted off his feet in a Chiefs tackle.
Bundee Aki runs into the Brumbies defence at GIO Stadium.
Bundee Aki runs into the Brumbies defence at GIO Stadium.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna on the charge.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna on the charge.
Liam Messam brings down Brumbies No 10 Christian Lealiifano.
Liam Messam brings down Brumbies No 10 Christian Lealiifano.
Chiefs first five Aaron Cruden barks orders at his team during their Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park.
Chiefs first five Aaron Cruden barks orders at his team during their Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park.
Chiefs players Aaron Cruden and Tim Nanai-Williams share their joy at making it to the Super Rugby playoffs after beating the Blues at Eden Park.
Chiefs players Aaron Cruden and Tim Nanai-Williams share their joy at making it to the Super Rugby playoffs after beating the Blues at Eden Park.
Good sportsmanship was on show after the Chiefs beat the Blues at Eden Park with Bundee Aki sharing a moment with Ma'a Nonu.
Good sportsmanship was on show after the Chiefs beat the Blues at Eden Park with Bundee Aki sharing a moment with Ma'a Nonu.
Halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow topples over in the Chiefs' round 19 Super Rugby game against the Blues.
Halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow topples over in the Chiefs' round 19 Super Rugby game against the Blues.
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick reaches for the ball.
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick reaches for the ball.
Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs steps out of the tackles of Ardie Savea (left) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes during his side's round 18 Super Rugby win in Hamilton.
Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs steps out of the tackles of Ardie Savea (left) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes during his side's round 18 Super Rugby win in Hamilton.
Hadleigh Parkes from the Hurricanes celebrates a try during his side's Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Hadleigh Parkes from the Hurricanes celebrates a try during his side's Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma from the Chiefs during his side's 24-16 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma from the Chiefs during his side's 24-16 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton.
Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes charges into Liam Messam of the Chiefs with the assistance of Ben Franks (left) during the round 18 clash between the two sides at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes charges into Liam Messam of the Chiefs with the assistance of Ben Franks (left) during the round 18 clash between the two sides at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes is tackled by Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden during the round 18 fixture at Waikato Stadium.
Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes is tackled by Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden during the round 18 fixture at Waikato Stadium.
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu take down Chiefs fullback Tom Marshall at Taranaki Stadium.
Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu take down Chiefs fullback Tom Marshall at Taranaki Stadium.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow flicks a pass out during the Chiefs' clash with the Waratahs.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow flicks a pass out during the Chiefs' clash with the Waratahs.
Chiefs first-five Aaron Cruden attempts to sidestep a tackle during his side's clash with the Waratahs.
Chiefs first-five Aaron Cruden attempts to sidestep a tackle during his side's clash with the Waratahs.
The Chiefs put the pressure on the Waratahs' Jacques Potgieter in New Plymouth.
The Chiefs put the pressure on the Waratahs' Jacques Potgieter in New Plymouth.
Brodie Retallick runs it against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Brodie Retallick runs it against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by Dane Coles.
Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by Dane Coles.
Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith makes a pass during his side's clash with the Chiefs.
Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith makes a pass during his side's clash with the Chiefs.
Fireworks go off at Yarrow Stadium ahead of the Chiefs' home clash with the Blues in New Plymouth.
Fireworks go off at Yarrow Stadium ahead of the Chiefs' home clash with the Blues in New Plymouth.
Tom Marshall, centre, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try for the Chiefs against the Blues in New Plymouth.
Tom Marshall, centre, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try for the Chiefs against the Blues in New Plymouth.
Chiefs fans delighted to get the chance to cheer their team on in New Plymouth.
Chiefs fans delighted to get the chance to cheer their team on in New Plymouth.
Liam Messam, right, asks referee Mike Fraser to go to the TMO during the Chiefs' clash with the Blues.
Liam Messam, right, asks referee Mike Fraser to go to the TMO during the Chiefs' clash with the Blues.
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs scores a try in the tackle of Franco Mostert of the Lions.
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs scores a try in the tackle of Franco Mostert of the Lions.
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs scores a try against the Lions in Hamilton.
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs scores a try against the Lions in Hamilton.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge at the Lions defence during their Super Rugby clash.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge at the Lions defence during their Super Rugby clash.
Chiefs prop Jamie Mackintosh puts the head down to make some hard yards for his team against the Lions.
Chiefs prop Jamie Mackintosh puts the head down to make some hard yards for his team against the Lions.
Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies is tackled during their match against the Chiefs.
Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies is tackled during their match against the Chiefs.
Tevita Koloamatangi of the Chiefs is tackled during their match against the Brumbies.
Tevita Koloamatangi of the Chiefs is tackled during their match against the Brumbies.
Liam Messam of the Chiefs runs the ball during their match against the Brumbies.
Liam Messam of the Chiefs runs the ball during their match against the Brumbies.
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs looks for support in the tackle of Kieran Reid of the Crusaders.
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs looks for support in the tackle of Kieran Reid of the Crusaders.
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs loses possession in the slippery conditions during the Chiefs and Crusaders match.
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs loses possession in the slippery conditions during the Chiefs and Crusaders match.
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs takes a high ball under pressure from Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders.
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs takes a high ball under pressure from Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge against the Rebels at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge against the Rebels at Waikato Stadium.
Sam Cane in action against the Melbourne Rebels.
Sam Cane in action against the Melbourne Rebels.
Tom Marshall on the charge for the Chiefs against the Rebels in Hamilton.
Tom Marshall on the charge for the Chiefs against the Rebels in Hamilton.
Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu looks to offload after being grounded by the Melbourne Rebels' defence.
Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu looks to offload after being grounded by the Melbourne Rebels' defence.
Gareth Anscombe chases down a loose ball against the Cheetahs in South Africa.
Gareth Anscombe chases down a loose ball against the Cheetahs in South Africa.
Michael Fitzgerald makes a charge for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Michael Fitzgerald makes a charge for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick lines up Cheetahs hooker Adriaan Strauss for a hard tackle.
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick lines up Cheetahs hooker Adriaan Strauss for a hard tackle.
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow tries to make a break against the Bulls in South Africa.
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow tries to make a break against the Bulls in South Africa.
Prop Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs tries in vain to keep the ball under control against the Bulls in Pretoria.
Prop Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs tries in vain to keep the ball under control against the Bulls in Pretoria.
Jacques Du Plessis of the Bulls crashes trough the Chiefs' defensive line.
Jacques Du Plessis of the Bulls crashes trough the Chiefs' defensive line.
Caille Visagie and Dean Greyling of the Bulls tackle Tom Marshall of the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld.
Caille Visagie and Dean Greyling of the Bulls tackle Tom Marshall of the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld.
Gareth Anscombe cuts through the Stormers' defence late in the game.
Gareth Anscombe cuts through the Stormers' defence late in the game.
Aaron Cruden brings down Stormers second-five Jean de Villiers.
Aaron Cruden brings down Stormers second-five Jean de Villiers.
Chiefs wing James Lowe confronts the Stormers defence.
Chiefs wing James Lowe confronts the Stormers defence.
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow sprints away from a scrum.
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow sprints away from a scrum.
Tom Marshall toes the ball on in the Chiefs' impressive win over the Stormers.
Tom Marshall toes the ball on in the Chiefs' impressive win over the Stormers.
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams glides through a gap in the Highlanders defensive line.
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams glides through a gap in the Highlanders defensive line.
Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald charges forward at the Highlanders.
Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald charges forward at the Highlanders.
Chiefs fans enjoyed a two-point victory against the Highlanders.
Chiefs fans enjoyed a two-point victory against the Highlanders.
Liam Messam runs into the tackle of Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman.
Liam Messam runs into the tackle of Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman.
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow runs onto Waikato Stadium to face the Highlanders.
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow runs onto Waikato Stadium to face the Highlanders.
Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean has a barnstroming game against his former Crusaders team.
Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean has a barnstroming game against his former Crusaders team.
Chiefs players Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams jump high for a high-ball against the Crusaders.
Chiefs players Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams jump high for a high-ball against the Crusaders.
Aaron Cruden barks out a play call during the Chiefs Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders.
Aaron Cruden barks out a play call during the Chiefs Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders.
Chiefs players Charlie Ngatai and Mils Muliaina attempt to bring down Israel Dagg.
Chiefs players Charlie Ngatai and Mils Muliaina attempt to bring down Israel Dagg.

Somewhere this decade the Chiefs and Crusaders have swapped identities - a scenario vividly portrayed in Friday night's remarkable Super Rugby season- opener in Christchurch.

Somehow the Chiefs won 18-10 despite being restricted to the rugby equivalent of crumbs from the Crusaders' table. By coach Dave Rennie's count his team had around 32 percent possession, yet they bookended the match with tries that put a serious dent in the fortress that is Christchurch's post- earthquake pop-up stadium.

The red and blacks won all nine matches there last season and dropped only one - against the Hurricanes in 2012 - since making it their new home. That number now doubles after the Chiefs found a way to win through tenacity, tackling and terrific commitment.

These were attributes you used to equate with the Crusaders through their golden period in the late-90s and 2000s. It was they who would soak up huge periods of pressure, and somehow win matches they had no right to. It was they you associated with words like character, gutsiness, defiance. It was they who would clinically kick the goals and wear you down three points at a time.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, used to be the team that would give it a whirl and rattle the cage when things were humming but lacked the core characteristics required to grind out the wins to be a contender.

But over the previous two championship seasons the Chiefs, under their outstanding coaching crew, have morphed into a group with tremendous resolve, unity and structure on defence that means they are always in matches. They also have an uncanny ability to turn under-achievers elsewhere (exhibit A, Robbie Fruean) into world-beaters - another trait once a Crusaders forte.

They have their days as an attacking force, and have some wonderfully instinctive players, but the one thing they do week in week out is put bodies on the line, play hard for each other and trust their defensive system will repel more than it lets through.

Sure enough on Friday it was the Crusaders who spurned chance after chance, missing five straight first-half penalties (Tyler Bleyendaal will wear out the counselling couch getting over that), two more after the break, and failed to convert a mountain of pressure into even a molehill of points.

"It was incredibly gutsy. We gave away far too many penalties and it gave them field position and opportunities to kick for goal. We played a lot without the pill and lost key players throughout, so it was a hell of an effort from 23 guys," coach Dave Rennie said.

He had no hesitation rating it one of his side's more remarkable victories in recent years, hailing some "pretty miraculous stuff" as wave after wave of red and black attack was repelled. "You couldn't ask for more from a character point of view," he said.

The win did come at a cost with the Chiefs dressing-room resembling a casualty ward after reserve fullback James Lowe snaffled that late intercept and dashed 80 metres to deny - with a little help from Aaron Cruden - the Crusaders a bonus point.

The Chiefs had lost halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow (ankle) before kickoff and saw Mils Muliaina (elbow), Kane Thompson (groin), Brodie Retallick and Ben Afeaki (concussion) and Augustine Pulu (knee) all go down through a gruelling 80 minutes. Third-string flanker Tevita Kolomatangi also lost his battle against cramp.

Muliaina's elbow could be "long term" while further assessment will be needed to determine the extent of the other damage. The Chiefs being the Chiefs (or the Crusaders?) will simply shrug and get on with it.

"There's a lot of belief here, and we've certainly got a group of guys who work hard for each other and are prepared to empty the tank," Rennie said. They will also address their deficiencies - set piece, the breakdown, ball-retention - and round out their game.

The Crusaders, meanwhile, have some work to do. Their forwards were dominant and Rey Lee-Lo had a promising debut in midfield but their attack was too lateral, too indirect and the handling errors came far too frequently.

"We didn't start, we didn't build pressure and we made a lot of mistakes," Blackadder lamented. "We had our chances but didn't execute at the right time and didn't keep the scoreboard ticking over either. We've got a few questions that need to be answered."

The return of Kieran Read this week is timely. A visit to the Blues suddenly looks a little daunting.

Sunday Star Times