How can the Force defeat the Waikato Chiefs? How can they? It is as daunting a fixture as the Force will have all year and yet they must approach it like any other. The Force can look to the four defeats the Chiefs suffered during the 2013 season for inspiration, but in my opinion there is little to be learned from there either.
The last team to take the Chiefs were the Crusaders who were desperately trying to secure a finals spot whereas the Chiefs had already earned theirs. The Chiefs were admittedly minding themselves a little bit, with half an eye on the semi finals and rested some of their players. The other point would be that the Crusaders had no less than fourteen all-blacks on the team sheet with another five on the bench just for good measure the Force do not have this embarrassment of riches at their disposal.
The Waratahs and the Reds managed to turn over the Chiefs mid-way through last season also, the Reds in Hamilton and the Waratahs in Sydney. The Chiefs were in a sort of mid season slump though and didn’t play how they can.
The common theme that can be taken from the Waratahs, the Reds and the Crusaders, was simply the effort they put in. To take on the Chiefs in a game of rugby is just a waste of time. To defeat them you must live and die on the field, and go for every ball like your life depends upon it. You may think that for a professional outfit, this would be a given, but there are levels.
The Chiefs are a machine, a relentless, ruthless, physically brutal team. They look flash when they move the ball, but led by the likes of Liam Messam and Brodie Rettalick, I assure you there is a mean psychotic edge to a lot of their play. Another thing that people fail to notice is that the Chiefs pack is probably the heaviest forward pack in super rugby.
The Stormers have a monstrous pack in their own right but last week it was men against boys at certain stages.
The Chief’s line-out and scrum are fairly solid, so disrupting the set piece is unlikely to yield dividends for the Force. The Force will concede a lot of weight to the Chiefs tight five, so getting into an arm wrestle is probably out as well.
Some of the most dangerous broken field runners in the sport populate numbers 9 to 15 for the Chiefs. There are international teams that would be shaking in fear opposing some of these guys. The Force must not kick loosely here or they will be put to the sword in the first half alone.
Giving away cheap penalties would be extremely bad for business as Aaron Cruden and Gareth Anscombe are two top class proponents of the boot. Another difference between the Chiefs and most other teams is, if you turn their back on them at a free kick or penalty, even on their own line, they will run it and they will hurt you.
Every one of their forwards have excellent hands and are capable of popping up in midfield in the centre of a backs move. Every single player on the park for the Chiefs looks to offload the ball, thus constantly changing the point of attack.
As you read through the list above, you might think, why would the Force bother to turn up at all. But on any given day you can win if all goes to plan. It sounds like a cliché but the Force must focus on things within their own control. First and foremost, they must exceed the Chiefs for intensity.
The hope is the Chiefs arrive in Perth over confident and don’t get going at all. It's not as if it hasn’t happened before as we have seen recently with Rebels and last season with the Crusaders.
The Force must take points from every foray into Chiefs territory to, if possible, force the Chiefs into a more loose sort of approach. The only two other things I can see that can be exploited are the following. Sometimes Tameifuna and McIntosh can be caught ball watching around the fringes of breakdowns. Perhaps there could be a gap for the likes of Nick Cummins on an inside ball, or even a snipe from Alby Mathewson.
The last thing I would say, when you look at the Chiefs teamsheet, with Cruden and Nanai-Williams in midfield, they are short of a little bit of size. If the Force can send their bigger traffic down the channels of these two little superstars, they should have no problems getting over the advantage line.
To summarize, everything has to go right for the Force, and everything has to go wrong for the Chiefs for this to be competitive. The Chiefs have a couple of chinks in their armour, but are the Force the team to exploit them? The jurys out on that one I’m afraid. The Force would be satisfied here with a bonus point, but in my opinion even that could be beyond them.
Chiefs to win by 16, whats your prediction?
Over and out,