Continued improvement key for Chiefs

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Assistant coach Tabai Matson said from Pretoria the Chiefs drew because they hadn't taken their opportunities.

"For us the real reality is we have to improve if we are going to get a result against the conference leaders at home," he said.

Matson said the side had coped well with the 28 hours of travel and had been sleeping well since arriving.

Reflecting on the Hurricanes game, he said it had been an improved performance which was important for the side but it had clearly not been good enough to secure a win.

"We're still winless, we know the Bulls are leading the Conference and have had a week off so I think for us, and Brodie's [Retallick] been leading that all week, we've just got to keep improving. It's that simple.

"We're taking different lessons out of last week and the Bulls give us a different focus this week," he said.

That focus was about working to get their preparation right ahead of what would be another big battle in Pretoria, he said.

They would face their first contrast in styles and exposure to South African rugby for the season and if they didn't prepare to deal with that it would be a long day at the office, he said.

"One of the things we haven't done well this year is to play our game. Play our game at tempo, try and be more accurate. They will bring what they normally bring, very strong drive, focus on the scrum, a South African referee and the ball will travel longer, Handré's [Pollard] got a massive boot, so it will be all the normal things we strike in South Africa," he said.

They would be looking to hold the ball for longer because they knew if they were able to do that they could put any side under pressure and it would be crucial to do that against the Bulls.

"They've got a frugal defence so for us that was the most pleasing thing, being able to hold the ball and not turn it over as much. We also had a pretty good day around our kicking game and that will be critical up here on the high veldt," he said.

The Bulls hadn't scored a lot of tries this season but had won games through feeding off the ill-discipline of sides which would mean the Chiefs would have to be wary of their own discipline and off-side play, especially within goal-kicking distance.

The improved performance did make selection decisions more difficult although he hinted the change made last week by having Damian McKenzie at fullback was obvious and it was likely they would look to that again. Whether Marty McKenzie started at first five-eighths or Jack Debreczeny was part of the consideration going into the side, he said.

"Having two playmakers on the field made a massive difference to our territory battle so we will be looking to that again," he said.

Matson said flanker Mitch Karpik hadn't toured as he had suffered from a knee injury of a type which was not helped by travel while wing Etene Nanai-Seturo had not been taken for his wellbeing. He was 19 and had been playing well for them but management felt it was better that he be looked after with his future in mind.