Operating with dual playmakers on the park has become part-and-parcel of the Chiefs game since Dave Rennie took over the franchise in 2012 and Aaron Cruden was used in tandem with the likes of Robbie Robinson and Gareth Anscombe. When the Blues travel to Hamilton on Saturday, they’ll likely operate with a combo of their own.
The Blues have, for the better part of the season, been operating with Otere Black at 10 and a second playmaker in the 15 jersey. Prior to the global lockdown, Stephen Perofeta was the man handed the duties from the backfield while Beauden Barrett has now taken over.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have perfected the art of using Cruden as the game controller but bringing the electric Damian McKenzie into the first receiver role when needed.
We’ll likely see the two pairings go head to head on Saturday night at Waikato Stadium and Cruden understands why the Blues are using a model that’s served both the Chiefs and the All Blacks well in recent seasons.
“I know both those guys really well and listening to Otere in his interview after the game he stated that as a first five it’s always nice to have another first five on the field,” Cruden said. “In terms of controlling things, it does make it nice and easy. You’ve got another playmaker on the field giving a solid voice and great direction and you are able to work off each other.”
It also creates a problem for defending sides because you can never be certain who an attack will be built around.
“For us we will have to try and nullify them. They both like to organise, they are good distributors and they are well balanced. So, it’s about limiting their opportunities, limiting their time on the ball and if we do that hopefully things might be able to flow for us a bit there.”
Cruden started on the bench in Saturday’s season opener between the Highlanders and the Chiefs in Dunedin but after the shock loss, it would be surprising if the experienced pivot didn’t take his place back in the starting team for what’s become an exceptionally important clash.
“The result wasn’t ideal but for us it’s about controlling those crucial moments and making sure we understand each action has a bit of a consequence and we want to make sure consequences are positive for our team,” Cruden said.
The Chiefs have not had the best of luck in front of their home crowd this year, losing to both the Brumbies and the Hurricanes but Cruden is hopeful his side will be buoyed on by the anticipated sizeable turn-out.
“By Saturday we really hope to see capacity, a few cow bells and paint on the faces of the young kids. And it’s the battle of the Bombay’s,” said Cruden. “What more could you ask for?”
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