Recruitment key to Chiefs success
Mon, 30 Jul 2012 4:26p.m.
Opinion by Rugby Editor Hamish McKay
Did you hear the one about the quietly spoken Tongan try-scoring torpedo, the rejected Samoan warhorse and the 140kg ball of prime Maori beef who wanted to be a halfback?
You might not have - but the Crusaders front row sure as hell have, and they didn't find it that funny. Especially when referee Craig Joubert started dishing out penalties as the usually guilt free Red and Black scrum began to crack under the pressure.
I am of course referring to Sona Taumalolo, Mahonri Schwalger and Ben Tamiefuna; an unlikely trio to be setting the standard in Super Rugby front row play, you might agree.
But it hasn't happened by accident.
They are just three players that typify the superb piecing together of the selection jigsaw that has put the Chefs within one win of Super Rugby glory. Canterbury reject Brodie Retallick is another.
Taumalolo was a current Chief, but showed his true worth as a rock for Tonga when they ripped into the All Blacks in last year's RWC opener at Eden Park. He scored that night.
No surprise then he would cross the chalk for his ninth try of the season in last Friday’s semi-final win over the Crusaders.
Schwalger has experience across the rugby world matched with the kind intestinal fortitude that saw him get offside with Samoan rugby officialdom by daring to stand up for his and his team-mates' rights. Tamiefuna is the rough diamond. He really started to get the measure of Wyatt Crockett on Friday night. But if he's to go further he'll have to buy a new alarm clock having slept in during the All Black Irish series!
But you get the picture - piece by piece Dave Rennie, Wayne Smith and Tom Coventry put their jigsaw together. Their research left no stone unturned. In fact, the reason Smith is part of the Chiefs coaching set-up is because of a phone call he received from Dave Rennie asking about the qualities of a certain high-profile player. One thing led to another.
Incredibly the Chiefs have a none-too-dusty second front row of Ben Afeaki, Hika Elliot and Toby Smith. Tanerau Latimer remains their first choice openside. Backing him is up a test seven of the future in Sam Cane. And so it goes.
There is wonderful competition for places, but it isn't undermined by individuals. The self-belief that now oozes from the likes of Craig Clarke and Liam Messam is infectious. The kind of self-belief that rattled the Crusaders for 80 minutes in the Hamilton. The Crusaders aren't bullies but rather the masters of skulduggery; silent and powerful but often unseen physical and mental domination. But this time they came second.
It's no secret the Chiefs becoming "the intimidators" hasn't happened by accident. By all accounts their closed door sessions have on occasionally "flared up".
Still, as Richard Loe would say, this ain't tiddlywinks.
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2/08/2012 2:32:30 p.m.
Rob P wrote:
I agree, the Chiefs played some wonderful rugby this year and Dave Rennie is a fanastic ambassador of NZ and the game. Don't be too harsh Paul, mistakes can happen anywhere even in the media. Someone once mistook Hamish McKay for a journalist - go figure!
1/08/2012 3:33:12 p.m.
Ben Tamiefuna is Tongan, how did you get him mistaken for a Maori
31/07/2012 3:28:28 p.m.
Tony Mc Dowall wrote:
good on the Chiefs and coaches what a wonderful season, Dave Rennie you are going places.
30/07/2012 5:48:53 p.m.
Woah another superb piece of Canterbury hate mail. Make no mistake Hamish McKay the feeling is mutual down this way.
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