Sky broadcaster Ken Laban has labelled the Chiefs as “a train wreck” as they stare down the barrel of a record-breaking losing run.
It has been more than a year since the Hamilton franchise last tasted victory, with their last win coming via a 51-14 romp over the Waratahs in Wollongong on March 6, 2020.
Since then, the two-time champions have lost 11 matches in a row in a losing streak that has encompassed a winless Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign last year and a winless start to this season.
Another loss this weekend against the Hurricanes in Wellington will set the new record for most consecutive defeats suffered by a New Zealand franchise in Super Rugby history.
Speaking on The Breakdown on Sky Sport earlier this week, Laban attributed the franchise’s poor form to the franchise’s high turnover of coaches in recent years.
Since 2017, the Chiefs have had four different head coaches – Dave Rennie, Colin Cooper, Warren Gatland and Clayton McMillan – and three different head coaches over the past three years.
The return of Gatland from this year’s British and Irish Lions tour in 2022 will represent the fourth change of coaches in as many years, and Laban said that is partially to blame for the franchise’s record-equalling losing run.
“I suppose you can paper over the cracks, but the Chiefs, in my view, they’re a train wreck. They’re a complete train wreck,” Laban said.
“They’ve had, now, three coaches in three years, and next year it will be their fourth coaching change in four years.”
Laban, a long-time Sky Sport commentator, compared the current Chiefs side to that of the team that was coached under Colin Cooper between 2018 and 2019.
During that time, Cooper guided the Chiefs to back-to-back quarter-final appearances where they lost by narrow margins to the Hurricanes and Jaguares.
It followed the work done by Rennie, who led the Chiefs to their only two titles in 2012 and 2013 in his first two seasons in charge, which was followed by a play-offs appearance every season thereafter until his departure for Glasgow Warriors four years ago.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 19, 2021
“When Colin Cooper was in charge, he got them to the play-offs,” Laban said. “They were one try away, they were 21-16, they lost the quarter-final [to the Jaguares] in 2019 and now they’ve run 0-11.”
Laban noted current coach McMillan, who is filling the head coach role in the absence of Gatland, is not to blame for the franchise’s failings, nor are the players.
The fault, he said, should lie with the team’s board and administrators for allowing such a constant stream of changes in the top coaching role.
“Clayton McMillan, I have huge regard for Clayton McMillan. He is a coach of huge significance in our game with a tremendous future, but I feel for him, and I certainly don’t blame the players.
“I think the governance and the administration of the Chiefs need to take some responsibility for what’s happened there because there’s no way that they’re an 0-11 team in this competition given the quality of their playing roster.”
The Chiefs are listed as underdogs at the bookmakers for this weekend’s clash, but may have reason for optimism given the Hurricanes’ lack of depth in their halves combination.
A victory for the visitors would prevent them from breaking the Highlanders’ record of 11 winless matches – a feat the Chiefs have now equalled – between 2012 and 2013.
Kick-off for Saturday’s match at Sky Stadium is scheduled for 7:35pm NZT.
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