Chiefs are preparing well for Super season
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is a very content man as his team wraps up their first phase of pre-season preparation.
After tomorrow's session the squad disbands for a 16-day break, during which the players will have time to be with family over the festive period.
They are given some leeway, though the leash is not extended too far.
"They're all on programmes, there's expectations that they'll work pretty hard while they're away, and [when they get back] they'll be tested and they'll need to hit those targets," Rennie said. "As per usual, there'll be repercussions if they don't. They're pretty good, the boys, they understand the importance of that time away. It's time with family, but you've got to get through a volume of training. So they'll get up early in the morning, they'll work hard and they can still enjoy a bit of a summer."
So far Rennie has been dazzled by some impressive efforts in the 20-metre shuttle yo-yo test, with new lock Matt Symons a particular standout, reaching level 19.4.
"Nineteen-odd for a tight forward is impressive. You'd regard it as world class," Rennie said of the English-born 24-year-old who played for Canterbury in the NPC.
Hooker Nathan Harris, called into the squad as backup, also starred with a 19.2, while new midfield recruit Robbie Fruean this week recorded a whole level up from his previous top score.
"We're working pretty hard," Rennie said. "We've got a lot of guys who are scoring personal bests, and a couple of guys broke Chiefs records, which was pretty impressive. So we're excited by what we've seen. We've got a lot of rugby content into them as well, which has been good, just sowing seeds, especially for our new boys."
The Chiefs' Maori All Blacks came back into the mix this week, while the All Blacks players return in late January.
With the established leaders out, it's given a chance for others to take on bigger roles in a side looking for three consecutive titles.
"Obviously, with Craig Clarke going, Richard Kahui going, there's a couple of our leaders [gone]," Rennie said. "We brought guys like Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick into the leadership group halfway through the year. On top of that we've got guys like Nick Crosswell who's captained Manawatu, we've got Jamie Mackintosh who's captained Southland and the Highlanders. So there's an enormous amount of leadership within this group, a fair bit of experience in amongst some first-timers, so we've got a pretty good blend."
The main injury concerns for Rennie are currently the question mark around hooker Hika Elliot's recovery from a neck operation, while utility back Gareth Anscombe has had a shoulder operation and won't be back playing until early March.
Utility back Tim Nanai-Williams, halfback Augustine Pulu, hooker Mahonri Schwalger, openside flanker Tanerau Latimer and lock Michael Fitzgerald are all recovering from injuries, have been doing conditioning work and will start rugby-specific drills in the New Year.