Chiefs prop Angus Ta'avao proud of how far his side have come

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Tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao said they had been given a schooling by the Crusaders in their first clash this year as their streak extended to 11 losses, and he had never been penalised as much in scrums, but he was proud of the growth in the Chiefs' packs since.

That desire to improve had been reflected in their achievement of making the final.

"The fruits of our labour have come through in the last few weeks. But, like anything, we're only as good as our next game. We're confident in the work we've been doing and we know the Crusaders love a good set-piece, so do we at the moment," he said.

Apart from a chat from injured captain Sam Cane, who had experienced the winning finals in 2012-13 and who talked to the players about those efforts, nothing had changed from their usual preparation.

They had stuck to their usual processes, albeit with the whole organisation being excited about the chance they have.

The Crusaders had a record of finals experience while the Chiefs had several players who were playing their first final, but for the Chiefs, it was a case of acknowledging and embracing that fact.

"If you let it overtake you mentally, you'll probably get caught up in a few things. We've talked about letting it wash over you and accepting that that's the case and try to nail the things we're doing.

"The set-piece is a massive thing, and controlling…playing in the right parts of the field so it's a big match but it's almost like we've been playing finals the last five weeks. It's come right down to the wire and our season has been on the balance pretty much each game," he said.

One of the benefits the Chiefs had enjoyed was the example set by the players who hadn't made the matchday 23. They had sometimes out-performed the starters, while the players who came off the bench had been able to make big contributions to games.

"If you want to be the best, you have to play the best and beat the best. There is a strong rivalry and they've set the platform for a while but that's something we're excited by. That's something we step up to do, and train to do. We're not here to make it easy for ourselves. We don't want to play easy games every week. We want to be challenged. And we love that challenge," he said.

Ta'avao had no qualms about having usual loose forward Mitchell Brown playing at lock behind him. Brown had put in a big season in the role last year and rated himself as the hardest pushing lock around.

"He's probably not your classic [lock] compared to Naitoa [Ah Kuoi] and Tupou [Vaa'i] but he loves that stuff. He'll put his head in dark places. I lose no confidence in him coming in, he has probably the biggest heart in this team, the biggest work rate and I'm happy to have him behind me," he said.


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