Chiefs Rugby

The Chiefs Super Rugby Team

The Chiefs rugby team is based in Hamilton New Zealand and represents the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Counties Manukau, King Country and Thames Valley New Zealand Rugby Unions. They entered Super Rugby in 1996 as the Waikato Chiefs, representing Waikato, Bay of Plenty, King Country, Thames Valley as well as North Harbour and Northland. The unions around Auckland were split up because of how heavy Auckland, North Harbour and even Counties were in terms of All Black representation in 1996. By 1999 Canterbury had well and truly risen as a New Zealand rugby power and the Auckland-based provinces were not as strong so the Auckland Blues and Waikato Chiefs provincial partners were aligned to match geographic layout.

The franchise gets its name from the Kingitanga movement in the Waikato in the 1880’s to appoint a king from Maori Chiefs. The Chiefs logo is a Maori warrior holding a club, known as a patu.

Historically the Chiefs rugby winning record sits at just under 50% and until 2004 were the only New Zealand team to not make the finals. Ian Foster, who coached from 2004 till 2011 took the team to a semi final and a grand final, and had a winning record of just over 50%. Under Foster’s reign the Chiefs have been known as a frustratingly talented team that suffers appalling injury crisis and poor form early in the competition, only to come into amazing form when it’s almost too late. In fact, in some cases the Chiefs have been the form team of the competition, only to have left their run too late and miss the semi finals. In the late 2000’s, with outside backs such as Sitiveni Sivivatu, Mils Muliaina and Lelia Masaga, the Chiefs rugby team have been known for their running and counter attacking rugby. Unfortunately, this has been at the expense of a tight five. Except Ian Jones and Keith Robinson, the Chiefs have never had regular All Black representation from the tight five. Aled de Malmanche was sporadically tried as an All Black hooker, but fittingly, was found wanting in some of the core functions of the role.

In 2012 the Chiefs became just the sixth team to win the Super Rugby tournament, defying early season predictions.

Chiefs Video Tribute – 2010 Season

Thanks to youtube user eoin900 for this great video.

The Chiefs rugby team have had six coaches, who except for Ian Foster only coached for a maximum of three seasons. John Mitchell coached for the 2001 season before being called to the All Blacks job. The inaugural Chiefs coach was Brad Meurant. David Rennie was appointed coach for the 2012 season and named former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith as his assistant.

The Chiefs went through a rebirthing period in the 2012 Super Rugby competition, with a large number of experienced players and staff moving on from the franchise. One of the most significant changes is the coach. Ian Foster has departed after a record breaking eight seasons at the helm. Foster was able to take the Chiefs to the finals for the first time in the history, with a trip to the semi final in 2004 and the grand final in 2009, which ended up in a record defeat to the Bulls. However, he will likely look on his tenure with some regret having been unable to win the competition. One of the biggest Chiefs’ biggest weaknesses has been in the tight five. Their All Black forward contributions are minimal and they have never had one of their props picked for higher honours.

Chiefs Coaches

1996 – 1997: Brad Meurant
1998 – 2000: Ross Cooper
2001: John Mitchell
2002 – 2003: Kevin Greene
2004 – 2011: Ian Foster
2012 – present: Dave Rennie

Chiefs Captains

1996: Richard Turner
1997: Ian Jones
1998: Errol Brain
1999: Michael Collins
2000: Glenn Taylor
2001 – 2002: Deon Muir
2002 – 2008: Jono Gibbes
2008- 2010: Mils Muliaina
2008- 2011: Liam Messam
2012+: Craig Clarke and Liam Messam (co-captains)

Chiefs Super Rugby Placings

1996: 6th
1997: 11th
1998: 7th
1999: 6th
2000: 10th
2001: 6th
2002: 8th
2003: 10th
2004: 4th
2005: 6th
2006: 7th
2007: 6th
2008: 7th
2009: 2nd
2010: 11th
2011: 10th
2012: Champions

The Chiefs in 2012

A number of notable Chiefs players departures occurred between 2011 and 2012 as Dave Rennie selected his squad for his first campaign. Chiefs stalwarts to move on included Colin Bourke, Mike Delany, Aled de Malmanche, Stephen Donald, Toby Lynn, Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Dwayne Sweeney, Ben May, Nathan White. Other departures include Culum Retallick, Stephen Setephano, Isaac Ross, Hayden Triggs Tana Umaga and Taniela Moa.

Donald, Sivivatu, Muliaina left significant holes to fill in the Chiefs rugby team, as well as the maligned Dwayne Sweeney who was invaluable for his versatility. Under the guidance of  new forwards coach  Tom Coventry, the Chiefs tight five also had to start almost from scratch in 2012, with most of the previous tight forwards having moved on.

Rennie brought a number of Manawatu players with him for the 2012 season, including first five Aaron Cruden as well as prop Shane Cleaver, lock Michael Fitzgerald and midfield back Asaeli Tikoirotuma. There was also a strong group of new Hawkes Bay players introduced to the Chiefs in 2012.

2012 was also be the year the Chiefs debut two of their highest profile signings ever, in superstar Sonny Bill Williams and World Cup winning assistant All Black coach Wayne Smith. Williams went on to build a devastating midfield with fellow All Black Richard Kahui, until Kahui suffered a season ending shoulder injury late in the season. Other key players in 2012 were new first-five Aaron Cruden, who played almost every minute of the campaign, Liam Messam who earned himself an All Blacks recall and rampaging prop Sona Taumalolo who scored a prop-record nine tries.

For the first time a Super Rugby team named co-captains at the beginning of the campaign. As expected Liam Messam was announced as captain, but Craig Clarke was surprisingly also named as the Chiefs rugby co-captain. Clarke has been a reliable grafter for the Chiefs rugby team over a number of years, but has received little recognition as a leader. When the season commenced it was expected the two would rotate roles and reduce the disruption when one of them had to be rested over the long campaign. Liam Messam has long been lauded for his leadership, from when he captained the NZ Sevens team at the age of 20. However, as of round 6 it is Clarke who impressed as Chiefs captain and therefore consistently worn the official arm band. The role has arguably bought the best out of both Craig Clarke and Liam Messam as both had impressive campaigns.

The Chiefs went on to supply a number of All Blacks based on their victorious 2012 season. Young lock Brodie Retallick became a regular fixture in the All Blacks as did flanker Sam Cane.

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The Chiefs in 2012

Ben Afeaki (Prop, North Harbour), Shane Cleaver (Prop, Manawatu), Toby Smith (Prop, Waikato), Sona Taumalolo (Prop, Hawke’s Bay), Ben Tameifuna (Prop, Hawke’s Bay), Hikawera Elliot (Hooker, Hawke’s bay), Mahonri Schwalger (Hooker, Taranaki), Craig Clarke (Lock, Waikato), Brodie Retallick (Lock, Bay of Plenty), Romana Graham (Lock, Waikato), Michael Fitzgerald (Lock, Manawatu), Kane Thompson (Lock, Hawke’s Bay), Sam Cane (Flanker, Bay of Plenty), Tanerau Latimer (Flanker, Bay of Plenty), Liam Messam (c) (Flanker, Waikato), Scott Waldrom (Flanker, Taranaki), Fritz Lee (Number8, Counties Manukau), Alex Bradley (Number8, Waikato), Brendon Leonard (Halfback, Waikato), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Halfback, Waikato), Aaron Cruden (First Five-Eighth, Manawatu), Andrew Horrell (First Five-Eighth, Hawke’s Bay), Sonny Bill Williams (Second Five-Eighth, Canterbury), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Second Five-Eighth, Manawatu), Richard Kahui (Centre, Waikato), Jackson Willison (Centre, Waikato), Lelia Masaga (Wing, Bay of Plenty), Declan O’Donnell (Wing, Waikato), Nemani Maritino (Wing, Hawke’s Bay), Robbie Robinson (Fullback, Southland), Tim Nanai-Williams (Fullback, Counties Manukau)

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