'I've seen how social media gets to some of the younger players and we've had that happen here'
The Chiefs have had very little thought about anything other than themselves during their recent winning run.
Remarkably, the Chiefs are the in-form team in Super Rugby Aotearoa after a run of four straight closely fought victories against their Kiwi rivals in the last month.
With a place in the final suddenly not far out of grasp, the Waikato-based franchise is grimly determined to focus on nothing other than themselves and listening to none of the chatter.
Shutting out the media noise, being wary of social media, and keeping focus on each individual nailing their role with a high level of accountability is the approach within the confines of the Chiefs.
According to Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes, the destiny this team could have ahead will rest within their own hands, not the views or arguments presented by those on the outside.
“It’s not the external noise that we respond to,” Barnes told media on Monday.
“We respond to the noise within our room in terms of what we expect from each other and we expect that every week so it’s no change for us because we have a job to do and its about going out there and applying it.”
In the past there has been issues with players being too aware of what’s being said by fans and journalists on social media platforms such as Twitter.
“I’ve seen how social media gets to some of the younger players and we’ve had that happen here,” Barnes admitted.
“They’ve had to learn how to deal with it as this level but if you can block all that out and go do the job that everyone in this franchise expects you to do then you’ll be in a good place.”
Asked if the Chiefs will continue to hold the underdog status in Super Rugby Aotearoa, Barnes argued that a good team culture has kept the belief within the franchise alive through a difficult period of 11 straight defeats.
“We’re only underdogs because of the results last year but not a lot has changed about what we’re doing,” he said.
Blues prop Alex Hodgman will play no further part in Super Rugby Aotearoa this season after copping a ban for his red card against the Highlanders on Friday. #SuperRugbyAotearoa https://t.co/drUW9xg5Aa
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 19, 2021
“Culture is important but it’s built on actions because you can talk it up in a room about what and who you think you are but it’s really about how you behave”.
A true rugby man of old-school mentality, Barnes saw much of the Chiefs’ ill-fortunes in the past year coming down to experience and the inability to win the key moments in games.
Against the Crusaders, explained Barnes, a few important moments in the final stages were the major factors as the Chiefs got themselves on the right side of the ledger.
“There were two or three things that happened in the last five minutes which is about players doing their job during the week, learning their detail and applying it on the paddock under pressure.
“We’ve been winning those moments this year whereas last year when we had a bucket load of 20-year-olds in their first season of Super Rugby. They’re all now a year older and know what its about so it’s starting to come to them.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now