Back-to-back champions happy with their success to date.
The Waikato Chiefs have dismissed talk of being rugby’s latest dynasty despite their 27-22 trumping of the ACT Brumbies in the Super 15 final for back-to-back titles.
The Chiefs have traditionally been an unfancied side but becoming only the fourth side to win consecutive Super 15 titles has given them cause to command respect.
However, unassuming coach Dave Rennie is not concerned about how others see his champion side.
“I don’t care to be honest. It’s more about what happens within our group and we’re really satisfied,” he said as he reflected on how the Chiefs set themselves up for Saturday’s showdown.
“It’s a tough tournament. You’ve got to be good and consistent for long periods and that gave us the opportunity to play at home (in the final) and that probably made a difference.”
It was also too early to talk of a dynasty, he added, as the Chiefs joined the Canterbury Crusaders, Northern Bulls and Auckland Blues as the only teams to achieve consecutive titles.
“Dynasty is the sort of thing you reflect back on. We’ve won a couple of titles and next year it will be about realising how hard we’ve had to work to achieve what we have done and trying to replicate that.”
For much of Saturday’s final the Brumbies held the upper hand, and led 22-12 going into the final quarter before Rennie unleashed his bench and within a handful of minutes the Chiefs had piled on a match-winning 15 points.
Christian Lealiifano landed five penalties and converted his own runaway try to post all of the Brumbies points and Aaron Cruden had kicked four penalties for the Chiefs before the final blitz.
It began when man-of-the-match Liam Messam drove over the tryline and then replacement back Robbie Robinson finished an 80-metre move for the second try with Cruden landing one conversion and a further penalty.
After struggling in the Brumbies wake for 63 minutes the Chiefs were in command.
“We got fantastic impact off the bench… and in the end that was probably the difference,” Rennie said.
“We needed to dictate the tempo of that last period and I think we did that very well.”
Flyhalf Cruden said the Chiefs are aware that outside their franchise area they have few fans, but know within themselves how good they can be.
“There’s always going to be critics. People saying you can’t do this or that. As a group we know our ability. We’ve got a lot of self belief. That’s definitely shown in the last couple of years. Next year we will be aiming for another one,” he said.
The Chiefs topped the table at the end of the regular season, despite unflattering statistics showing they had the worst possession record in the competition and the worst lineout.
But they had attitude and lethal finishing ability that saw them score more points and tries than any other side.
“They showed why they are a championship team. They showed why they won last year and they showed why they came first in the whole competition by getting a home final,” said Brumbies coach Jake White.
Last year they were written off at the start of the season because their tight five were said to lack depth and experience. This year there were questions about whether they would cope without Sonny Bill Williams.
Next year they will be without inspirational co-captain Craig Clarke and former All Blacks Lelia Masaga, Richard Kahui and Brendon Leonard who are moving on.