Chiefs look to heed lessons
March 7, 2008
More physicality, greater speed to the breakdown and cutting out mistakes are among items on the agenda as the Chiefs try to get their Super 14 rugby campaign back on track tomorrow night.
Last weekend's disappointing 39-19 defeat to the Hurricanes left the Chiefs with a one-win two-loss record and back in ninth place on the table.
But they now have a stretch of four home fixtures in a row to try to build momentum, beginning with a clash against the winless Cheetahs in Hamilton.
Halfback Brendon Leonard said the Chiefs were looking to take on board the lessons from their loss in Wellington, including preventing the opposition from pinching turnovers.
"The Hurricanes were a lot better at contesting the breakdown than we were," he said.
"Their loose forwards and guys like (hooker) Andrew Hore come to mind. They were quick at getting over the ball and ripping it. If we can be more effective, it might help to us to win some turnovers."
Leonard said the Chiefs were braced for a tough battle up front against the Cheetahs.
The Bloemfontein-based side put in a combative performance at home to the Blues in the last round, despite ending up conceding 50 points to the competition leaders.
"They have a lot of physicality, a lot of big boys like South African sides do," Leonard said.
"We have to be strong in that area."
Leonard is returning from a thigh injury which he suffered in the win over the New South Wales Waratahs a fortnight ago and which kept him on the sidelines against the Hurricanes.
The injury, a haematoma, was still a bit sore, but the livewire All Black was confident he would last the 80 minutes against the Cheetahs.
"My lungs might not agree with me," he said.
"But I should go all right. It's just a bump. Nothing major."
Leonard's return is one of seven personnel changes coach Ian Foster has made to his starting 15.
There is also a new captain in fullback Mils Muliaina, standing in for regular skipper Jono Gibbes, who is out for six weeks with a hamstring tear.
Muliaina said a focus of this week's preparation was on addressing the Chiefs' own performance, in particular their error rate.
"We're making mistakes at crucial times and being punished," he said.
"We've certainly gone back and had a look at ourselves and what we can do, because a lot of the things are fixable."
Muliaina again pointed to composure as an issue. While the game has speeded up with the experimental law variations, the Chiefs remained guilty of throwing passes that weren't really on.
"Yes, the game is a lot faster than it used to be, but we're just forcing little passes here than there," he said.
"We were also just a metre or a second late at the breakdown and the Hurricanes were really effective in that area.
"They were getting turnover ball and it's quite disheartening when someone has made a break but you have to go back all the way to your try line because the opposition capitalised on a mistake."
The Chiefs and the Cheetahs have met twice before and the result on both occasions was tight.
The Chiefs won 33-32 in Hamilton in 2006 and the sides drew 22-22 in Bloemfontein last year.