OPINION: The Chiefs have added to New Zealand's momentum as the rugby season rolls into test action again.
Well done to Dave Rennie's side for claiming their first Super Rugby title and bringing the silverware back to New Zealand after four years.
It was a deserved victory and just reward for their season dominance.
They were clinical in the final and, apart from a patchy first quarter, weren't under the pump. They simply didn't allow the Sharks into the game, dominating with their kicking game, their set-piece accuracy, their hunger and eventually their accuracy once they overcame their early nerves. The Sharks will point to the travel factor but the dominance of the Chiefs was too great to use that as a sole excuse.
New Zealand can take confidence from this Super Rugby campaign, and not just from the Chiefs' glory.
The New Zealand conference was hugely intense and there were some brilliant matches between our sides. There was some really good individual competition as well among players and it's been great to see so many fresh faces coming forward in the past five months.
The All Blacks selectors have taken notice, although they haven't stepped too far away from their World Cup-winning formula.
That was reflected again in the 28-man squad named to contest the opening phase of the Rugby Championship.
Aaron Smith, Luke Romano and Sam Cane have been rewarded for their exciting Super Rugby campaigns. But if you were picking solely on form, then you'd have the likes of Andre Taylor, Robbie Robinson, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett and Ben Tameifuna in the mix as well.
And that will be the challenge for both the selectors and this group of promising players as this season progresses. How do these youngsters keep putting their hands up in the lesser environment of the ITM Cup and will the selectors keep them on their radar?
The end-of-year tour will be a crucial opportunity for the likes of Chiefs halfback Kerr-Barlow. With the massive amount of talent in New Zealand, one of our biggest problems is simply allowing players too much time to develop instead of giving them a crack when they are full of confidence and form. It's an embarrassment of riches other nations envy.
The All Blacks environment is a great place to bring out the absolute best in players. Look at the way someone like Ma'a Nonu thrives there, given his indifferent form in Super Rugby. And he's a test veteran - imagine what a keen young player feels when he is given a similar opportunity.
Maybe it's just a matter of bringing in some of these youngsters on the fringes for some of the camps. We certainly saw the benefit of that with Barrett earlier in the year when he was rubbing shoulders with Dan Carter.
As for what lies in front of the All Blacks right now, it's going to be an interesting start to the new format that includes the Pumas, and the games in Argentina are going to be challenges for the old Tri-Nations teams.
As always, victories on the road will be crucial to the final outcome and that means the All Blacks need to find form immediately when they play Australia in Sydney on August 18.
On the evidence of the June test series, the All Blacks looked to have the best game plan and personnel.
If the Wallabies fold in Sydney, they could have problems because their confidence levels won't be high on the back of a wobbly series win over Wales and a lacklustre Super Rugby effort.
As for the Springboks, they really lacked imagination against England, and appeared handicapped by their reliance on the strategies of the Bulls' limited and conservative game plan.
They have more talent than that, as we saw in Super Rugby where their teams dominated the makeup of the playoffs. The challenge for Heyneke Meyer is to harness that better.
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