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Chiefs begin Brumbies homework

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Sportal.co.nz     28 Jul 2013     Getty Images

Eight hours after his side halted the Crusaders in a thrilling home semi-final, it was back to the drawing board to devise an Investec Super Rugby title defence.

Rather than stay up for the 3am (NZT) kick-off Rennie opted to delay his analysis until the match had been decided, allowing him to focus on the team that the Chiefs will host in six days time.

What he saw was a little surprising. At altitude the Brumbies fell behind late in match before centre Tevita Kuridrani produced the match-winner a minute before time.

The last time the Chiefs met the Brumbies was in March last year, but there is a sense of familiarity about the side that finished atop the Australian conference.

Leading points scorer Christian Lealiifano (190) played for Waikato in the 2010 ITM Cup while top try scorer, Henry Speight (8), called Waikato Stadium home between 2008-11.

The tactics to counter Jake White's men will be discussed at length over the coming days, but there is one aspect that can be factored in immediately.

Travelling over 12,000 kilometres to play in Hamilton will be tough. A similar trek is thought to have taken a toll on the Sharks before last year's 37-6 defeat in the final.

The Bulls travelled to New Zealand in March and showed no signs of fatigue when toppling the high-flying Blues. However, they could do little to stop a 41-19 thrashing in Christchurch a week later.

Teams making the trip between New Zealand and South Africa generally struggle during the second week in a new time zone; something Rennie was quick to point out.

"We won't get sucked into that line of thinking," Rennie said.

"We've travelled back from Africa in the last two years and won both of those games so it's very doable for them."

A stand-out feature of their win over the Crusaders was a heroic defensive effort, especially when repelling multiple attacking waves on their line in the dying minutes.

After conceding the lead for the first time in the second half, the Crusaders roared back with 10 unanswered points but not even a dropped goal attempt by Dan Carter could break the Chiefs' strangle hold.

"We were under the pump a bit but the boys showed massive ticker and I'm really proud of them," Rennie added.

"We were caught out a couple of times but on the whole there were fantastic moments defensively."

The Chiefs took lessons from a 43-15 belting in Christchurch three weeks prior and changed their game plan accordingly.

Although they trailed for the entire first half, Rennie felt it was a only matter of time before the patterns he put in place reaped the rewards - a pair of tries to Aaron Cruden and Lelia Masaga.

"We just wanted to shift the ball a bit wider and then we thought there would be times that we could go through the middle so we got a bit of reward there," said Rennie.

"We were reasonably happy with the way the first half went because we had created opportunities. We just took the foot off the throat by making a couple of errors or not getting enough numbers to look after the ball."

Meanwhile, a losing result in the corresponding fixture last year helped Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder come to grips with the fact that he will have to wait another year to end a five-year title drought.

The former All Black captain was gracious in defeat but rued a number of missed opportunities that he said would have swung momentum firmly in his side's favour at a crucial stage of the game.

"I'm not going to take it personally, you get into these situations and you definitely want to win them," Blackadder said.

"The fact that we didn't take them [opportunities] isn't a reflection of a bad team. I think it's a reflection of not being able to take those critical moments and nail them."

In five years at the helm, the closest Blackadder has come to an unprecedented eighth title is a losing appearance in the 2011 final against the Reds.