Defeat in 2009 final taught us lesson - Latimer
Tanerau Latimer says the Chiefs don't want to go down the path that led to a Super Rugby final wipeout in Pretoria three years ago.
Openside flanker Latimer is one of seven survivors from the 2009 final in Pretoria when the Bulls thumped the Chiefs 61-17 at Loftus Versfeld to win the second of their three titles.
Richard Kahui's season has been ended by shoulder surgery but the other five from the starting XV in that 2009 final - Latimer, Liam Messam, Craig Clarke, Sona Taumalolo and Lelia Masaga - are all in contention to play on Saturday against the Sharks in the 2012 final at Waikato Stadium, as is Hika Elliot who was a bench player last time.
"We mentioned earlier in the week how the '09 week went for us, where we didn't perform in South Africa, and it's a path we don't want to go back down or emulate," Latimer said.
Head coach Dave Rennie played a video clip of the last couple of minutes of that final to the players at the start of this week and then asked those involved to talk about what went wrong on that occasion and why.
"It was good to actually mention it. There are a lot of things we can take out of that, but at the end of the day I think we were just happy to be at the final and that's not an attitude you want to go into a game with.
"A Chiefs team had never been in a final before so we had accomplished something but the attitude's definitely different this week," he said.
Latimer said the attitude had, in fact, been different all season.
"And that's been brought about by the coaches setting the standards and the boys living it."
While the Chiefs had lost their opening game back in February against the Highlanders they had then won the next nine in a row to set the pace in the competition, rather than relying on the traditional Chiefs late winning run after a poor start to get them into the playoffs.
Some would prefer to put the 2009 season firmly in the past, but Latimer said the Chiefs had to learn from the past.
"And that was a big mistake we made [on that occasion]."
Dining off a landmark semifinal win - over the Hurricanes in 2009 and the Crusaders this year - was not something they could afford this time.
"That's definitely not good enough this week and you ask any of the boys this week and they'll say exactly the same."
There has been a belief and determination among this year's Chiefs to win the Super Rugby title right from the time they first came together last November and it has been common this season to hear players talk about such ambitions.
"They are goals. We had to write them down at the start and we live them every day.
"We go into the analysis room and our goal is up there - to win our first Super title - and that's been there all year.
"We just look at it and think, ‘yes, that's what we're about'."
Latimer is the first to acknowledge that while a big Bulls forward pack and outstanding ball-running loose forwards ran over the top of them three years ago in Pretoria, the Sharks possess many of the same strengths.
"They have got some very good loose forwards and real mobile, especially Keegan Daniel, but things are different, we're at home, we don't have to travel, we've got the crowd behind us and we don't have to go and play in front of 70-odd thousand screaming South Africans.
"That will make a huge difference," he said.