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Chiefs ready for battle up front

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Coach Dave Rennie said: "Looking at their pack they've got 10 All Blacks who will strip this weekend so they've got amazing depth and it's a great weapon for them.

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"But it always has been. As long as I can remember they've probably had the best pack in the competition. They drive well, they've got a great defensive lineout so we've always known what our challenge is and we've got a group of men who are keen to measure themselves.

"I thought we fronted pretty well against them in Fiji up front and we'll need to do that again," he said.

Rennie was happy with the way the side had been slowly working their bodies back into the time zone after all the travel of the last week.

They had looked at everything they had done in their seven previous visits to South Africa, where they had returned to win six of their games, and also what was different when they lost, to the Stormers earlier this year.

"I certainly feel we are in a much better place than we were this time last year," he said.

It was a case of going to Christchurch and preparing to play what was the form team of the competition. By not winning the Conference they knew they would have to travel and they had to get their minds around that.

They were also aware the weather would not be the best and while that was unfortunate it was the same for both sides, he said.
The two sides knew each other well and would have done similar levels of study so it was a case of having a couple of surprises to try and pull in the game.

The Chiefs did have the satisfaction of having a full squad to pick from, which was unusual, and while they had some success against the Crusaders in previous play-offs, it was on their own turf and the Crusaders were now the side enjoying home advantage.

He said the Crusaders wouldn't be sitting at home looking at statistics from previous games and feeling under any pressure.

They had also been looking to cover the prospective need for a penalty shoot out if the teams were still tied after extra time.

While the Chiefs were approaching the end of the Rennie coaching era, with his move to Scotland, and several players heading overseas, he said there hadn't been a lot of thought about it all ending due to the desire to go as far as they could in the competition.

However, on reflecting about his satisfaction as a coach, Rennie said while winning was nice, the good thing about coaching was seeing players go on after their careers having set themselves up in their families and with careers.

Having been associated with departing first five-eighths Aaron Cruden since their days at Manawatu, Rennie said the biggest thing the side would miss would be not just on the field but his tactical brain and the contribution he made to the squad around leadership.

"He's very demanding and has high expectations of himself and others. We've got a pretty special group of leaders here and he's been a big part of that," he said.