Cruden heartened by tough Chiefs schedule

Playmaker Aaron Cruden believes the Chiefs’ diet of tough New Zealand conference games will hold his team in good stead in Saturday’s Super Rugby quarter-final against the Stormers.

The Chiefs arrived in Cape Town after completing a 30-hour journey, leaving them five days’ preparation to face the South African conference winners.

While travelling teams are at a disadvantage in Super Rugby play-off games, All Blacks five-eighth Cruden highlighted his team’s testing season as a reason for confidence.

Just three of the Stormers’ 15 games have been against teams who have reached the play-offs. They have yet to face a Kiwi team this season.

By contrast, the Chiefs have played nine times against play-off qualifiers, with their New Zealand conference games standing out to Cruden.

“Just competing at that level ahead of the final series is key,” Cruden told reporters.

“There may be key stages in the game on Saturday, stages when things might not be going so well. We’ve been there before and we back ourselves to adapt and change the momentum of the game. We’ve had so many tough games this season, and that should help us.”

The Chiefs have played a high-tempo game through most of the season, with a try tally of 68 beaten only by the Lions’ 71.

Cruden said they would try to stick with that style on Saturday but said they must firstly deal with what he expected to be a fierce challenge from the muscular Stormers pack.

Also, his team would need to deal with the sudden-death nature of the clash.

“If you lose you go home. That does influence your game – you tend to take less risks. In saying that you do not want to curb the boys.

“The positive mindset for us has really worked thus far.”

He said his team were aware they forced their attack too much in last week’s 25-15 loss to the Highlanders, a result which denied the Chiefs the top-qualifying play-off spot.

They are without injured centre Seta Tamanivalu and ineligible loose forward Liam Messam this week, adding to a lengthy medical list that has dogged them all season.

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