Attitude key for Chiefs in playoff battle
Wayne Smith knows all about playoffs rugby.
The wily Chiefs assistant coach has been there before with the Crusaders and the All Blacks and now with the Chiefs facing a Super Rugby home semifinal tomorrow week, he is adamant what is the single most important factor.
The Chiefs' semifinal has been confirmed as a Friday night game at Waikato Stadium on July 27 against the highest ranked winner of this Saturday's two finals series qualifiers in Brisbane and Christchurch.
"Attitude is definitely the key," Smith said as the second-seeded Chiefs had their first day of outdoor training yesterday since last Friday's regular season-ending loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
"We've worked on performance all year, on high performance, training to win and we've also worked on environment.
"I think now is the time for that environment to come through, where attitude, playing for each other, playing for our people in the Chiefs region is going to be critical," he said.
The Chiefs narrowly lost their last two games of the round-robin, having made hard work of a win over the Highlanders the week before, but they were up against desperate teams with a slightly sharper edge because they could not afford to lose and still reach the playoffs. The high-flying Chiefs were already in the playoffs and just playing for home advantage
"Perhaps [that was the case] but I hate saying that because we've had great attitude all year and there's good character in the squad and we were in a position to win both those games. Perhaps desperation does that to you, but we're in a great position here.
"We've got a home semifinal in front of our people, there'll be a full crowd, we've got everything to play for and we will have freshened up.
"And I'd expect us to be the desperate ones and put it out on the track."
That's the key, according to Smith.
"You want to be at your best in the biggest moments, and that's what we've got to show we can do."
Smith said the Chiefs had learnt from several scenarios in both their recent losses that if they'd done them better would have won them the games.
"That's like gold, you know, you learn from those situations, you write them in your book and take them away and the next time they occur you nail them."
Smith praised the attitude of his players starting the buildup to the semifinal, saying yesterday afternoon's session at Beetham Park was the best training run the Chiefs had had in a couple of months.
"There was good fizz, good understanding. We've looked inside ourselves a wee bit and we know what we want to do so there's a lot of excitement there."
The Chiefs have looked back at what got them to the top of the table for a number of weeks and what they did right in some of their best performances this season.
"We might have lost a bit of that along the way," he said.
The Chiefs will train the rest of this week, including Saturday morning, before having Sunday off. The coaches will be interested watchers of both qualifiers involving the Reds against the Sharks and Crusaders against the Bulls on Saturday night.
"I'll be taking notes in both games because any scenario is possible - we can play one of three teams effectively, Reds, Crusaders or Bulls - so we've just got to be pretty alert and work pretty hard the next day getting some [video] clips done."
Smith said having been in charge of a Crusaders team that didn't finish top and still won playoffs away from home he knew what was possible in finals.