Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie had a feeling his team would be facing the Crusaders in Friday night's Super Rugby home semifinal.
And he is still not dismissing the chance of a home final if they can reverse the 28-21 loss to the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium three weeks ago and the Sharks can upset the Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday morning.
The semifinal against the fourth-ranked Crusaders came about when the No 6 seeds, South Africa's Sharks, comfortably upset the third-seeded Reds 30-17 in Brisbane on Saturday night after the Crusaders were just as decisive in downing the Bulls 28-13 in Christchurch.
The New Zealand Conference-winning Chiefs, as second qualifiers behind the Cape Town-based Stormers, have to play the highest-ranked winner of those two finals series qualifiers.
"They were predictable," Rennie said. "We thought the Reds might battle against the Sharks, although we hoped they might win because that would have put the Crusaders over in Africa against the Stormers, and they had a good chance of winning that.
"That would have given us a home final if we could look after the Reds, but either way the Sharks are playing good footy and they could easily knock off the Stormers [and provide a Hamilton final anyway].
"But either way we've just got to worry about this weekend and our own game."
Rennie said the Chiefs would gladly travel if they won their semifinal and so did the Stormers, but it was all about getting things right on Friday night.
"We can't control the other things."
The Chiefs have spent the last week focusing on their own game but the coaches did do some homework on both the Crusaders and Reds with a view to the semifinal. Now they can concentrate solely on the Crusaders, who as a franchise have won the Super Rugby title seven times to the Chiefs' none.
"Of course we only played the Crusaders a couple of weeks ago so it's just about reaffirming things that we wanted to put into that game that we didn't manage to do."
The coaches and team leaders met last night to put together a strategic plan for the rest of the week and more particularly the game itself.
Rennie said the Chiefs had pinpointed a couple of key areas where they had not been good enough last time against the Crusaders, and felt if they could get them right this week they would be much more competitive this time.
He said they had had a particularly good week of training and preparation and were in a good frame of mind for this week's final buildup to the semifinal.
The Crusaders had a lot more players experienced in finals rugby that could only be gained by playing in playoffs, but the Chiefs also had several experienced players.
"You only get experience by doing and our boys have got belief. We've beaten them in the past and the only way to get that belief is to go out and do it.
"We know we're good enough if we get things right. They're in good form and will have a lot of confidence going into this game as well, so it's going to be all about who gets it right in that 80 minutes," Rennie said.
The Chiefs will name their team on Wednesday afternoon.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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