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'That's tough to navigate': The silver-lining of the Chiefs' 12-week stretch

By Tom Vinicombe
Brodie Retallick. (Photo by John Davidson/Photosport)

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While the double-up rounds created by the Super Rugby Pacific draw refresher have understandably attracted the most attention, the fact that New Zealand’s sides will now spend the rest of the competition playing matches week-in and week-out will also prove a big factor down the track.


The postponed fixtures from earlier in the season have all either been slotted into teams’ bye weeks or onto Tuesday nights. In the Chiefs’ case, they were supposed to have a spell this weekend but have instead found themselves squaring off with the Hurricanes in Wellington – a match that had first been scheduled for two weeks prior. As such, the Chiefs’ lack of a match during Round 2, with Moana Pasifika dealing with a Covid outbreak, will serve as their only break for the entirety of the competition.

With three possible finals matches on the cards, the Chiefs could now go another 12 weeks without a break – to add to the four games in a row they’ve already notched.

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Coach Clayton McMillan has acknowledged that’s not an ideal scenario but has also suggested that things could certainly be worse for his men.

“You accept it is what it is,” he said ahead of this weekend’s match with the Hurricanes. “We haven’t got a bye now but we also are really lucky that we haven’t had to double up, so there’s a bit of a trade-off.


“Everybody’s been affected in one way or another through Covid and their draws being changed. Those teams that have to play double-up games, that’s tough to navigate, so in some ways missing out on a bye is not ideal but in comparison to some of our other competitors, we’re probably in a pretty good space.”


Somewhat ironically, the staggered impacts of Covid could also potentially have a positive effect, with many players effectively being forced to sit out for a round or two to isolate at home. In essence, players are getting their own individual bye weeks.

“Ultimately, byes are there to try and rest people up, freshen them up mentally and physically,” McMillan said, “and if there’s one benefit – and I’m not too sure it’s a benefit – of Covid, we have had the majority of our squad be away for at least a week, albeit sort of in isolation, but hopefully achieving a similar goal of getting away out of the rugby environment and just being able to spend some time with family and rest the body, although not in the best circumstances.”

McMillan confirmed that there had been no further infections in the squad this week, as of Friday, but confirmed talismanic lock Brodie Retallick would be heading home for a few weeks as he waits for his broken thumb to heal.

“He is a presence in the group and I think his presence is something that the opposition really respects too,” McMillan said. “He’s a loss but a bit like the Covid boys, he can use this as an opportunity to get back to the Hawke’s Bay and spend a couple of weeks with his family and get a mental and physical refresher before he comes back and starts getting into some training. There’s always a bit of a silver lining to that stuff.”


With so much of the squad having already been afflicted with Covid, signs are positive that the Chiefs will be able to head into the second half of the competition with a relatively clean bill of health – although McMillan is well aware that things can change in an instant.

“You never say never with this virus but that’s a good sign, I guess, that we’ve had a good portion of the squad go through and we haven’t had any more infections this week, touch wood.”


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