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Chiefs gear up for Crusaders challenge in season opener

Chiefs gear up for Crusaders challenge in season opener

All BlacksFebruary 23, 2024

Coping with the challenge of meeting the defending DHL Super Rugby Pacific champion Crusaders is one of several challenges facing the Chiefs in the season's early stages.

Coach Clayton McMillan said the pre-season had been mixed for the Chiefs, but he was happy with how the side was placed. However, they would know how they were doing after the first three or four weeks of the competition, with the Crusaders first up and then the Brumbies and Reds away in Australia.

"Those are the three teams we played in the run-up to the final last year, so we're not going to get anything for free there. And then we come back and run into the Fijian Drua. They are going to be significantly better than they've been in the last couple of years so there are no easy game."

Having some All Blacks out of the Crusaders didn't change much.

"Most of the New Zealand teams know each other pretty well and their DNA doesn't change too much, even when there's a bit of a change in personnel."

The absence of All Black Will Jordan was unfortunate, but it wouldn't change things too much.

"We've all been in that boat before when we've lost players who are influential in our teams, but you can't sit around and dwell on it. You've just got to suck it up and move forward because this competition doesn't stop for anybody."

McMillan didn't see the game as a chance for revenge after losing last year's final. That talk was coming from outside the team.

The Power of the Pacific returns Friday, 23 February 🌊

🎟️ Secure your 2024 tickets: https://t.co/jsp6B9Ocse pic.twitter.com/aLqMwr0xfL

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) February 13, 2024

"There's no doubt people hurt, and there'll be an element of feeling, but every time you step out against the Crusaders or any team in the competition for that man, it's a new season, new bodies and new coaches.

"It starts on Friday or Saturday night, and if we're good enough again, we'll get off to a good start.

"We can't change what happened last year, but we can have an influence on what happens on Friday night so all the energy is directed there."

McMillan was confident the side was at a better point going into a new season than he had been before.

The selection for the opening game was down to those players who had put their hands up in the pre-season.

"By and large, we have selected a group who have competed at this level and acquitted themselves well in the past."

Chiefs v Crusaders: Friday 23 February, 7.05pm, FMG Stadium Waikato.

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