Chiefs coach Warren Gatland is demanding better from the opening whistle if they are to notch a long-awaited Super Rugby win in NSW.
Gatland named a Chiefs side down on scrummaging power following an illness to Test prop Atu Moli but he believes they will be mentally primed for Friday's match against the Waratahs in Wollongong.
Warren Gatland’s side haven’t tasted Super Rugby victory in NSW since 2007 but the new coach is hoping he can turn the tables. Credit:Getty
The veteran coach was a Chiefs technical advisor when they last tasted victory away to the Waratahs in 2007.
They have lost their last four on the trot in Sydney and the Kiwi side risk adding to that record if they continue a pattern of conceding early points.
It didn't count against them when fighting back to beat the Blues, Crusaders and Sunwolves but the gap was too big in their last-start 26-14 loss to an inspired Brumbies in Hamilton two weeks ago.
"We realise it's pretty hard to go through this tournament undefeated but the focus has been on us starting well," Gatland said.
"We've looked strong in the second halves. We feel like we're in good shape physically and good shape conditioning-wise… it's about not panicking too much."
While the Chiefs have ruminated over a first loss for the season, the 1-3 Waratahs are coming off a first win, over the Lions.
Gatland believes the key to closing down Rob Penney's team is muscularity at collision time.
"We've spoken about bringing a physical element to the Waratahs in terms of the breakdown because the players they have do thrive on quick ball," he said.
Moli was ruled out with illness, joining fellow All Blacks front-rowers Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta'avao on the injury list.
Prop Ross Geldenhuys will make his first start of the season in one of 10 personnel or positional changes to Gatland's XV.
Five-eighth Aaron Cruden is the only starting back to run out with the same jersey number as their last game, with the resting of fullback Damian McKenzie the most notable change.
CHIEFS: Solomon Alaimalo, Shaun Stevenson, Tumua Manu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sean Wainui, Aaron Cruden, Brad Weber, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane (capt), Lachlan Boshier, Tyler Ardron, Michael Allardice, Ross Geldenhuys, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Aidan Ross. Res: Donald Maka, Ryan Coxon, Reuben O'Neill, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Mitchell Karpik, Lisati Milo Harris, Kaleb Trask, Alex Nankivell.
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