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Chiefs looking at ways to stay ahead of the pack

Wayne Smith, Andrew Strawbridge, Tom Coventry and Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie

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Article Published: Wednesday 11 December 2013|

Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge says that they felt their were picked on by match officials in 2013 after winning their first title in 2012 and have been forced to change the way they approach the tackle and breakdown area.

The Chiefs have won back to back Super Rugby titles and are now planning to win their third title in 2014.

Strawbridge says that some dodgy referee decisions in 2013 and they have been working on adjusting the way they play so that they don't get on the wrong side of the officials.

"Some of the rules are pretty dodgy, very grey, about who you can deal with around the edges of rucks, so we forced the hand of the referees a little bit to explain to us who is involved and who isn't and what we can or cannot do," Strawbridge said.

"It's no secret we were looked at pretty closely last year, but it's an area we put a lot of emphasis on, and we have made a few shifts - which I'm not going to talk about - for this coming season. We've adjusted things slightly."

Strawbridge said that the change was needed as they had to satisfy the officials that they were playing within the laws as the referees were interpreting them.

"It doesn't matter what we think, in the end if someone is giving penalties against you, you've got to adjust," he told Fairfax News.

The Chiefs assistant coach said that that it appears to him that when a team wins the competition they come under very close scrutiny.

"The referees are a suspicious bunch and they think if you win, you are probably doing something underhanded or untoward, and they double-check everything you do and we came under the microscope because of that."

The Chiefs coaching panel have also spent time analysing the details that they needed to change generally in both their game and their training to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

Strawbridge was reluctant to talk in any detail of the changes to their approach in their game he admitted that they have made changes to the way they handle the breakdown.

"We spend a lot of time talking about that as coaches - the way we train, what we do at training, aspects of our game.

"We're not too sophisticated and I think if people sit down and spend any time analysing our game they can sort out that we're a same-way team so we're looking to change things up a little bit this year, absolutely.

"And you've got to keep it fresh - the players deserve that," he said.

Strawbridge worked exclusively with the Chiefs attack last season but in 2014 he will be working more with their defence and said that they are looking at the way they handle the physical aspects of the game pre-season and the contact parts of the game.

"Introducing speed and evasiveness and footwork is a little bit different than what we've done before.

"We're just trying to keep ahead of the game and it's a stop-start, slow down-speed up race game and we're just trying to become more efficient at that.

"Everything's a race in rugby - trying to win the space in lineouts, trying to get the first hit in the scrum, trying to be the first cleaner before the opposition assist tackler gets there - so we just wanted to become efficient at that so that's an edge we think we can possibly get."

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