Robertson spies title-winning qualities in Super Rugby rival Chiefs

rugby30 April 2023 06:49| © AFP
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Scott Robertson © Getty Images

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson concedes the Chiefs possess Super Rugby title-winning traits after losing to his unbeaten New Zealand rivals for a second time this season.

Robertson recognises championship qualities better than anyone, having steered the Crusaders to the silverware in each of the last six seasons.

However, his bid for a seventh crown before leaving to take charge of the All Blacks next year is not going to plan, with his team languishing in fifth place, having lost three of nine games.

Two of them have been to the Chiefs, including Saturday's 34-24 result in Hamilton, where the home side employed methods that have become a virtual trademark of Robertson's Crusaders.

The Christchurch-based side are famed for their strength of character in close games and for developing squad depth.

Yet it was the Chiefs who emerged victorious on the back of stout defence, making 174 tackles to 82, and finished the game stronger with two late tries.

Robertson noted it was opposite to the scenario in last year's semifinal between the teams, when the Crusaders tackled their way to victory.

"It just goes to show how much they cared and what the effort in their team was, it's pretty special," Robertson said of the Chiefs.

"Yeah, they've beaten us home and away now, and good on them, they're good. You've got to give it to them, fair play, they’ve built a great roster, and anyone that steps in has stepped up."

Chiefs fly-half Damian McKenzie was central to the outcome, kicking 19 points and managing the game better than Crusaders opposite number and All Blacks incumbent Richie Mo'unga, while also unleashing quickfire attacking raids.

It added to what was already an intriguing debate over who All Blacks coach Ian Foster will choose to wear No 10 at the Rugby World Cup.

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan would not be drawn on the debate but agreed McKenzie had lifted his game since a stint in Japan last year.

"He had a hand in our tries but there were times he probably tried a little bit much," McMillan said of 28-year-old McKenzie.

"The Crusaders came with a deliberate plan of trying to stress him with line speed and we made a few adjustments at halftime. We're a better team for having him in our side, no doubt about it."