Chiefs expecting no favours from Mitchell



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The Chiefs are expecting no favours from one of their favourite sons, John Mitchell, when they confront the Force in Perth on Saturday.

The Force are coming off a bye and need to win all their remaining matches to stay in the hunt for an extremely unlikely play off. Three wins now however will make their season look a lot more productive even if they are eight points adrift of the fourth-placed Chiefs.

Before the bye their shock loss to the Reds wrecked their play off hopes and Mitchell will want to put things right after they capitulated half way through the season.

While the bye has given the Force time to stew over their predicament it has also given Matt Giteau time to get over his concussion.

The Chiefs know there will be no sentimentality from Mitchell who coached the Chiefs in 2001 and 2002 before picking up the All Blacks job only to be fired for a world cup finish that Graham Henry would have loved and then moving west to Perth to start the new Aussie franchise.

Mitchell as a player is a Chiefs legend having played 134 games for the province including 84 as captain and claiming the NPC title and Ranfurly Shield title along the way.

He is also a professional and Mitchell would love nothing more than to tip over the Chiefs and help get something out of this final phase for his side.

“We are under no illusions what the Force are going to want,” Chiefs coach Ian Foster (pictured) said on News24 as his side prepared to get on the plane to head west.

“They have had a bye, they are coming off a disappointing game against the Reds the week before and we know they are going to be charged up.

“Giteau is back and they are going to be at full strength. So it’s going to be a tough ask. But it’s still there … the challenge is still there.”

The challenge for the Chiefs is to continue their charge for that play offs which means beating the Lions and Sharks in South Africa after their match against the Force.

Foster knows that it is make or break time for his team, but he’s confident after securing a record fifth consecutive win, albeit a slightly patchy bonus point effort against the Reds last weekend, that the three weeks away can take his side to another level.

“It’s been good to be home … we have won six out of seven at home so that’s a good result.

“Now we hit the road and we have to enjoy touring. This team is getting pretty tight and I think getting on the road can be a real positive,” said Foster.

“We have to use it to have a bit of fun, spend a bit of time together and really, from the look of the Reds match, we need to just freshen this team up and enjoy a slightly different challenge.

“We are enjoying what we are doing and we are in a bit of a groove. So it’s nice to hit the road like that. And it’s great to hit the road with a solid win.

“But there were some pretty clear warning bells (against the Reds) weren’t there – we can’t afford to go to sleep. There was enough to keep a coach happy that we got what we wanted … there were some really good moments but we got a few wakeup calls as well.”

Reds coach Phil Mooney believes the Chiefs have a good recipe for success even if their attacking approach allows the opposition chances as his side had shown with three quick tries early in the second half in Hamilton.

Mooney feels the Chiefs can do well on the road and said, “They are a team that are playing with a lot of confidence. Their last five in a row they have backed themselves to score points and they have some really good individual players that are good finishers,”

“It’s far from me to tell them how to play. But they have been winning games with it (this style) so I couldn’t see any reason why they would change. I certainly think that with the weapons they have got … don’t forget they beat the undefeated Crusaders last week.

“They finish with three pretty difficult games. The Force will be pretty chastened after what we did to them last week, the Lions are a team that almost beat the Brumbies and the Sharks in Durban are a massive challenge.

“But playing in Durban is a great atmosphere and it will lift the Chiefs boys as well. So they will be playing for a lot there.”

Chiefs skipper Mils Muliaina senses that things around him are going well and he has also sensed a real determination coming into his side.

He says that he was thrilled with the way his players managed to hold their focus against the Reds despite coming off the big win over the Crusaders the week before and then being put under the hammer by the Reds.

“I think we have to be happy because we have toughed it out, we are on the road now and it can only get better,” said Muliaina.

“We started believing a wee while ago when we started winning. So yes, there is a sense of belief there.

“The good thing about this team is that we are pretty tight as a group . Heading away we have to be smart. We are going to be together 24/7 and the key is to get a bit of a balance there.

“But there is a sense of belief that we can hopefully make a playoff. But we have been taking the whole year as one week at a time and this week is going to be huge for us.”

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