The Super Rugby Semi Finals are upon us, and for 23-young men playing for the Chiefs, the time for explosive confidence to shine through is now.
The Hurricanes host the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington in the first of Super Rugby’s semi finals on Saturday night. Having lost the final on home soil last season, Beauden Barrett and the Hurricanes have tracked perfectly to take ‘top spot ‘in the Super Rugby standings overall. The Chiefs meanwhile have had a nervous run to the semi finals after losing a key clash against the Highlanders two weeks ago.
However there has been no talk of ‘history’ inside the Chiefs camp this week. Head coach Dave Rennie (pictured) says history “counts for nothing”.
Chiefs Ignoring History Ahead Of Semi Final
But if that history did count, it is actually quite telling. The Chiefs got over the quarter final ‘hoodoo’ last weekend with a commanding 60-21 win over the Stormers. Last time Rennie’s men featured in the Super Rugby Semi Finals, the team went on to win the whole thing .
Rennie though, to his credit, has refused to touch on this with any of the players;
We haven’t talked about history, but to be honest, for a few of us it was nice to get past the quarter finals because we’ve stumbled there in the last couple of years. With that said, history will count for nothing on Saturday night.
While the whole team is aware of the history, and the expectation of their Waikato fan base, recovery and fitness is where their minds need to be.
To say the Chiefs played a fast-paced game against the Stormers would be an understatement. This takes its toll, and on top of the travel factor, mental recovery has been important for the players to back up well in the semi final. Players say they’ve enjoyed sleeping in their own beds and being in familiar surroundings.
Speaking of the travel for the Hamilton-based club, the schedule after last weekend went as follows:
- A flight from Cape Town to Sydney with a two-hour stopover.
- A direct flight to Auckland
- then a 90-minute drive down the Waikato expressway to their Ruakara base.
The team arrived back at Chiefs HQ on Monday night and were (gratefully) given the next day off.
Michael Leitch Returns For Super Rugby Semi Finals Selection
Michael Leitch returned to training on Wednesday and is in ‘with a chance’ to be selected for the semi final. Leitch’s fitness isn’t in question, he has been doing a lot of running during his time away. Chiefs medics are concerned about Leitch’s ability to hold the ball and have been doing a lot of hand muscle strengthening work during the week. As well, Leitch be doing contact work right up until Saturday night, even if not selected to cover as backup.
Stephen Donald is not available for the match due to injury. However, should the side make the final, Rennie says that he could be available for that encounter. Despite a concussion scare, co-captain Sam Cane is fit an available for this weekend. In more positive news, form centre Seta Tamanivalu also returned to full training on Wednesday after missing out on the Stormers clash with a knee injury.
“Sam was a bit grumpy being taken off at halftime, but it was the right call. We are pretty confident that he will bounce back pretty well. Seta went for a jog around this afternoon and provided he gets through our next training sessions, he should be available” Rennie told media.
Tamanivalu, with his large size, demands a lot of attention from opposition defense and will be a welcome selection for Rennie. The last time the Chiefs came up against the Hurricanes (above) Tamanivalu was a standout. In arguably the performance that drew the eye of the All Black selectors, Tamanivalu dotted down for two tries.
Chiefs Leaders Must Front In Semi Final
In order to beat the table-topping Hurricanes away from home, the Chiefs will need to bring with them their ‘best performance of the season’. For the likes of Aaron Cruden, Sam Cane, and Brodie Retallick, they have to lead from the front.
This side too has had so many standout performers who are new to professional rugby as well. Tom Sanders, Taleni Seu and Toni Pulu whom each have performed when asked to. Whatever the result, they will learn from the experiences of the next few days.
It’s do or die, history cannot count for a thing in Wellington this Saturday night.
“Main photo credit”