Chiefs must grab chances - Cruden

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 21/07/2012
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DISCIPLINE: The Lions are a "banana skin" for the front-running Chiefs.

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It's been a strange and in some ways frustrating week for the Chiefs.

By earning a home semifinal as one of the two top conference winners in Super Rugby they also got this weekend off from playing - so more chance to freshen up and prepare for Friday night.

At the same time they know they haven't been at their best the last few weeks, narrowly losing their last two games of the regular season in New Zealand conference derbies to the Crusaders and Hurricanes. Now they have had to wait a fortnight for a chance to get on the field and put that right.

"We just can't wait. We want to know who we are playing and will watch the games this weekend with interest," Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden said.

Cruden knows the Chiefs can play better than they have the last three weeks and believes entering the knockout phase of the competition will bring the best out in them and return them to the style and standard of play that got them to the playoffs in the first place.

That means getting back to taking opportunities out wide when they present themselves rather than developing tunnel vision closer in as has happened in the last two games.

"You can't narrow it down to one thing or another. I think there were definitely plenty of chances in both games that we missed out on but we did the same in earlier games as well."

It was just about getting back to the basics; doing what they do really well and focusing on doing the obvious. It required a return to the right balance between attacking around the fringes and attacking out wide - the variety that was the mark of all good teams.

"In the last couple of weeks we've probably tried to overplay our hand a little bit - each as individuals - and we're just trying to get back to what works for us, which is getting the ball to space and letting the ball beat the man.

"Rugby is a pretty simple game when it's done well and we've probably gone away from that a little bit and we need to get back to our strengths."

They knew they had it in them to win the semifinal, regardless of who the opponent was, and would look forward to having a big home crowd at Waikato Stadium to spur them on.

Cruden admitted things now change considerably for the Chiefs who the last few weeks had perhaps suffered from knowing they had already done enough to be in the playoffs.

"It's do-or-die rugby now and what's gone in the past has gone and that's where it lives.

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"Now it's literally all or nothing week to week.

"Win and you go through, lose and you're out.

"We're pretty keen to really hit the ground running because we've worked so hard during the year and it would be a shame to let it slip now."

A few things remained to tidy up before their semifinal but the excitement was building towards a semifinal on their home ground.

"Finals rugby is completely different," Cruden said.

"I think it brings the best out in teams and it's definitely going to do that for us."

- Waikato Times

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