Flanker Tanerau Latimer says the signs are promising that the Chiefs can launch a compelling defence of their Super Rugby title.
You won’t hear the phrase “three-peat” around the Chiefs’ camp heading into this year’s Super Rugby competition.
But experienced flanker Tanerau Latimer says that doesn’t mean the champions of the past two years are not looking to make it three titles in a row.
“We’ve shied away from that saying because it’s probably a bit too obvious,” he said.
“Three-peat doesn’t mean much to us. It’s only a word.
“We’ve got to come up with something else along the same lines that has a big drive for us.”
The Crusaders are the only team in the competition’s history who have won three titles in a row, from 1998-2000.
Latimer says the Chiefs have been putting in the hard yards in pre-season to give themselves the best possible chance of emulating the red and blacks.
“The boys are pumping out some impressive fitness scores and strength testings. I think this is the fittest Chiefs’ team that our trainer has ever had,” said Latimer, who will again do battle with All Black Sam Cane for the openside spot.
Despite winning a maiden title in 2012, the Chiefs weren’t given much chance of retaining their crown last year.
But having proved the doubters wrong to become just the fourth franchise to win back-to-back titles, Latimer knows the targets will be on their backs from the start in 2014.
“We’re at the front of our opposition’s minds now,” he said.
“That’s because we’ve won two titles. That means a lot more pressure for us and we’re really looking forward to it.”
The Chiefs’ decision to employ co-captains again has Latimer’s support.
Five-eighth Aaron Cruden will step up to share the responsibility with his All Blacks teammate Liam Messam following lock Craig Clarke’s departure to Ireland.
“Azza (Cruden) was a big leader for us the last two years. He’s the playmaker and calls a lot of the things from his position,” Latimer said.
“He gave us a bit of a towelling yesterday. We didn’t train too well. But if you don’t train too well, you know you’re going to get a boot up the bum.”
The Chiefs play a pre-season game against the Queensland Reds in Toowoomba on Saturday.