Chiefs sense special period
Hamilton -The jubilant Chiefs sense they are on the verge of something special after claiming their breakthrough Super Rugby title with a 37-6 trouncing of the Sharks in Saturday's final.
The team of relatively unknowns sidestepped talk of a "dynasty" but they did credit the culture that has developed in the side, similar to the way the Crusaders were described when they claimed seven titles in 11 years.
Against the Sharks, the Chiefs recovered from a slow start to lead 13-3 at half-time and pile on a further 24 points in a stunning second spell display while claiming the try count 4-0.
The victory put them into an elite group of Super Rugby champions since the advent of professionalism in 1996, joining the Crusaders (seven titles), Bulls (three), Blues (three), Brumbies (two), and Reds (one).
It also capped a remarkable season for a team that began with a new coach and only a handful of name players yet developed to beat the best in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the world's top three ranked countries.
Coach Dave Rennie, the architect of their rapid development, deflected credit saying the praise should go to the players.
"I'm really rapt for the boys, they've been a fantastic group to work with and deserve all the success they've got," he said reflecting on a remarkable season.
"The culture has been fantastic. They are a very tight group and enjoy each other's company and they've worked hard for each other.
"We targeted guys we thought would work hard for us and were willing to do a bit of graft, hit rucks and so on. We picked guys who probably weren't as heralded as others in the competition.
"But they've really stood up and we've got some great young kids and we've got some established players who went to another level this year and the leadership within the group was fantastic and that made a big difference."
Former All Blacks coach and tactical specialist Wayne Smith, who turned down a tempting offer to join the England coaching staff to be Rennie's assistant at the Chiefs won't talk of a dynasty but sees the team as something special.
"The team has played bloody well and with real spirit and character, but there is a lot of water to go under this bridge yet," Smith, who also coached the Crusaders to Super Rugby titles in 1997 and 1999, told the Sunday News.
"As soon as you start thinking of dynasties and things like that, that's when you topple over."
But Smith believes the Chiefs are at the beginning of something special "that we can really improve and there is no reason we can't become world class.
"From my experience, if you want to set up a successful number of years, then that's what you've got to do. You've got to be bloody good right across the board, not just on the field."
Their ability to bag the the Super Rugby crown without a galaxy of stars was reflected in the All Blacks squad named on Sunday for the upcoming Rugby Championship series against Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
It contained only four Chiefs - Liam Messam, Aaron Cruden, Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick - although Sonny Bill Williams is likely to be added for two matches.
The Crusaders, beaten in two out of their three clashes with the Chiefs during the year, provide nine All Blacks, the Highlanders six, the Blues five and Hurricanes four.