It’s been a long time between drinks for the Chiefs – so long in fact that the embattled Waikato franchise have finished their Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign with an unwanted record.
Spluttering to a 31-18 defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday night, the Chiefs finished their domestic campaign with no wins from eight outings.
That means the Chiefs have gone 156 days, and counting, without victory in Super Rugby, with their last win coming in a 51-14 drubbing of the Waratahs back in March.
At that point of the season, Warren Gatland and his men were in thick of the hunt for play-off spots as they sat in fifth spot with a 4-1 record.
However, things have changed drastically since COVID-19 came into play – so much so that the Chiefs now have the record for the most consecutive losses in a single season by a New Zealand franchise.
Heading into the Super Rugby off-season, the Waikato side have endured a run of nine straight defeats, a sequence of results that dates back to their 27-24 round seven Super Rugby loss to the Hurricanes on March 13.
It was the Wellington club that was again the source of more misery for the visiting Chiefs this weekend, and Gatland seemed at loss as to how his side has capitulated so badly since returning from the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
“It’s been tough. We were in a pretty good place prior to lockdown, we’d tried to rotate a lot of the squad and given a few younger players an opportunity,” Gatland told media post-match.
“For whatever reason there’s a number of games we’ve been right in there, one or two games we could point the finger at ourselves that we should have nailed that and finished it off. And it’s been highlighted we’ve been pretty unlucky with a few calls as well. That’s rugby.
“We’re disappointed but we’ll learn a heck of a lot from this and will make us stronger as a unit and better going forward.”
With 11 consecutive defeats sprawled across the 2012 and 2013 seasons, only the Highlanders have gone through a worse losing run that what the Chiefs are currently experiencing.
That didn’t stop Gatland from heaping praise on the mental fortitude of his “young inexperienced” squad.
“One thing I said to these players is, they’ve got to hold their heads high. People with lesser character would have thrown the towel in and started thinking about not giving effort,” the British and Irish Lions boss said.
“You can see these players, they’re trying hard. They’re coming up against some good teams and we’ve got some young inexperienced players who will learn from that. I can’t fault the effort that’s going in.”
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