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The Super Rugby final will see Retallick's rugby journey come full circle

By Ned Lester
(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Born and raised in North Canterbury, Brodie Retallick will face the team he grew up watching and the team he has faced the most in his storied Super Rugby career come Saturday’s final.

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All roads to the Super Rugby trophy go through the Crusaders, it was the case in Retallick’s debut season with the Chiefs and is again true this season.

Retallick will square off with Sam Whitelock, who he holds the record for most experienced locking partnership at the international level with, for the final time before the two conclude their New Zealand careers side by side at the Rugby World Cup in France.

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“He’s always a competitor,” Retallick told Stuff. “And he’s been around so long, because of his skillset and how good he is at doing it.

“Obviously we’ve played a lot of test matches together, but it won’t mean much come Saturday, that’s for sure.”

Since his Chiefs debut in 2012, Retallick has had a simple message in mind, one emphasised by then coach Dave Rennie: “Winning every one-on-one battle.

“And I guess that’s what rugby’s all about, eh. So from those early years that was the message – don’t lose a one-on-one battle, and that’s just the way it was.”

That mentality saw the big lock debut for the All Blacks just months after debuting for the Chiefs and only a year removed from a U20 World Rugby championship win, a rare collection of accomplishments for a 12-month span.

Now a centurion for both club and country, Retallick is hoping to hear Waikato’s cowbell chorus soundtrack another Super Rugby title win – as they did in 2011 and 2012 – before he returns to the Kobe Kobelco Steelers in 2024.

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“Last week it kind of dawned for me, if we lost that was it, I started to pack up a little bit.

“What better way to play your last game in a final at home? And hopefully, the result takes care of itself. But it’s awesome to be here, it’s been a long time since I’ve played in a Super Rugby final.

“Obviously we’ve been successful on the field, but I think a lot of that comes from what we’re doing off the field, we’ve got a great group of guys. So it’d be good to convert the two, have a good bunch of guys in a good environment, and also get the result.”

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The Chiefs will put in a performance inspired by Retallick’s legacy and inspired to give the All Black the dream send-off he deserves.

Regardless of the result, when Retallick boards that flight for Japan, he’ll leave knowing that the Chiefs are in safe hands. Young All Blacks Tupou Vaa’i and Josh Lord will assume the locking partnership and embark on their own journey, hoping for it to be as fruitful as their mentor’s.

“I guess from where I was when I first walked in the door to now is probably a world apart,” Retallick said. “As you get older you learn some life lessons and experiences, I had a family since then, and I guess with confidence and time in the saddle, you grow.

“It’s provided me so many experiences. A lot of stuff that people don’t get the chance to do, I’ve been lucky enough to do.

“I’ll enjoy the memories.”

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Jon 39 minutes ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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