The wet conditions in their pre-season clash against the Hurricanes may have exposed the Chiefs tight five, but coach David Rennie is confident that their work ethic will ensure that they are competitive this season.
The Chiefs may boast an exciting new coaching staff and a star-studded backline, but questions over the ability of their forward pack to dominate the opposition when the situation demands remain.
Those concerns were underlined by their disappointing performance which saw them defeated by the terrible weather conditions and a determined Hurricanes team in their final pre-season match on Friday.
There was not much of an opportunity for backline aces like Aaron Cruden, Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui to dazzle in the driving rain, which shifted the focus to the tight five which is a percieved area of weakness for the Waikato franchise.
After the match Rennie lamented the influence of the conditions, his side's inability to capitalise on their opportunities and play in the right areas of the pitch.
He told Fairfax media: "The rain pretty much turned the game into a pick-and go, maul, kick-for-territory type contest that probably wasn't the spectacle that people wanted,"
"We created enough opportunities to score a lot of points but weren't clinical enough, and in the last 30 minutes didn't play the right end of the field and got stung because of it," explained the Chiefs boss.
Despite a lacklustre display from the big men up front Rennie is confident that his squad has enough quality in the engine room to match the skills in the backline, and pointed to the positive attitude of his tight forwards as a key factor.
He said: "We've got a good bunch of guys – we picked a lot of good buggers with a good work ethic. It's been a lot of fun, and certainly the team has come together really well.
Rennie tried to deflect the focus off his forward pack by stressing that all members of the team will have to stand up if they are going to be competitive this season, and added that he is confident that the squad will blossom under the new coaching team which includes former All Black assistant coach Wayne Smith.
He commented: "For us to be successful we need everyone, all 15, firing. It's such a tough competition, and the fact we have to play all Kiwi sides twice makes it even tougher, with those matches very much a Test match intensity.
"But we're certainly looking forward to it. We've got a pretty solid coaching group, we're learning a lot about the boys and hopefully we can continue to grow them," said Rennie.
With the influential trio of Liam Messam, Hika Elliot and Kane Thompson expected back at full training this week Rennie should have a fully fit squad to call on for their season opener against the injury-hit Highlanders and if they get some early momentum then they should be pretty hard to hold back.
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