Super Rugby

Chiefs hope to get their title winning mojo back



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Chiefs two time winning Super Rugby coach Dave Rennie says that the 2016 season feels a lot like the 2012 season when he won his first title due to their being so many new faces.

The Chiefs won back to back Super Rugby title in 2012 and 2013 but since then a host of players and even coaches have left to play abroad or have retired.

Assistant coach Tom Coventry is now coaching in England and the Chiefs have Neil Barnes and Kieran Keane who join Rennie and Andrew Strawbridge for this season.

The playing group also has a number of new faces which also means that they won’t have as much experience this season but they do have some exciting new players.

Former Warriors winger Glen Fisiiahi, young Waikato fullback Shaun Stevenson and one-time Hurricane Sam McNicol have all made the Chiefs squad for 2016.

The Chiefs recruited well in the off season but then lost former Crusaders prop Nepo Laulala, lock Dominic Bird and Auckland openside flanker Mitch Karpik all to injury.

Laulala and Karpik have been ruled out for the season while Bird is expected to miss the first six rounds or so but Rennie is used to losing players to injury.

“It’s just the way it is,” he told Stuff. “All teams are going to get injuries, you’re going to have to deal with it.”

“Obviously we’ve lost some pretty good players. It’s really disappointing for them…You’ve got to rely on your depth, and it’s an opportunity for others to push claims.”

The Chiefs aren’t completely without experience as they still have the likes of Aaron Cruden, Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick and Tawera Kerr-Barlow who form the team’s back bone of leadership.

“They’ve been with us for a long time and they’ve played quite a number of tests for the All Blacks now, so you need that sort of experience to help you through things,” Rennie said.

Rennie says that his Chiefs have been given a “reasonably tough” draw and predicts the Lions to be the top South African team and for the Jaguares to be a real force.

The coach said that the six New Zealand derby games will be crucial in winning the Conference but the Chiefs travel will be a big feature as in three weeks they go to Port Elizabeth, then fly to Argentina via Brazil, return home to host the Force and fly across the Tasman to Canberra.

“It presents some challenges. So our medical team, our trainers etc have done a lot of planning around how we want to get the best out of the players,” Rennie said.

“But in the end you’ve just got to deal with that, it is what it is. No-one looks back in 10 years time and says that ‘Oh the travel was difficult or you had X amount of injuries’.”

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