OPINION: I've got one piece of advice for those who like a flutter - get to the TAB now and put as much as you dare on the Chiefs to complete their Super Rugby threepeat.
My goodness, they were impressive on Friday night as they dismantled the Stormers with more ease than the 36-20 scoreline suggested. Right now Dave Rennie's men seem so far ahead in all facets of their game, on and off the field, it's hard to see them getting rolled.
I know it's an early call and I know the Sharks are rumbling away in South Africa. But they should comfortably win the New Zealand conference and if they do enough to hold home advantage, they should win the competition again.
I'm sure there will be a lull at some point, but they've come out of the gate exactly how they needed to.
The Stormers' effort was impressive. Yes, they let in a couple of soft tries late, but the way they played the game, the way they prepared for it, and the depth they've got is extraordinary.
They are streets ahead of where the other teams are at the moment, and streets ahead of where they need to be right now. They've got the balance of talent, experience and selection just right, and it's a credit to their coaching staff.
Have they picked a dud? That's how right they get it. It's hard to think of someone they've recruited who hasn't done the job for them. It's all the things that made the Crusaders great and you would say this team might even be taking it to a new level
So far the other New Zealand teams have struggled against South African sides. But the stats they put up against one of the best defensive teams in the competition on Friday night were staggering: they had 15 clean line-breaks, 15 offloads in contact, and 644 attacking metres. They forced the Stormers to miss 33 tackles.
They've picked up three guys in the off-season from Tasman in James Lowe, Tom Marshall and Liam Squire who have all made big impacts early. Their ability to identify and attract talent is simply second to none.
Right now the Chiefs are paying $3.50 to win this competition. That looks a good return, because they're playing with such supreme confidence, they're going to be very tough to peg back from here.
In contrast, you watched the Crusaders battle away against a Rebels side which really shouldn't be in their class. They made three line-breaks and nine offloads, and just couldn't create the space the Chiefs could.
The Chiefs are picking up four-try bonus points because they're creating things - and they don't do it by running over people.
They do it with sleight of hand, great footwork, speed of execution and delivery of pass. The speed they play at is extraordinary, and they commit to that.
Plus, they're thinking outside the square. Even though Aaron Cruden's deliberately missed penalty kick was illegal, it shows they're challenging boundaries and looking for every opportunity.
Their instinct is to turn down penalty points because they want to keep attacking.
I know there's a long way to go, but they are streets ahead of anybody else in the New Zealand conference.
The Crusaders, on the other hand, have got a mountain of work to do.
They got the result they needed in Melbourne, but the way they went about it suggests serious concerns about where they're at.
It doesn't mean they won't be in the playoff picture, but if you compare where the two sides are at now, it's the Crusaders doing the pursuing and the Chiefs setting a pace they look very, very comfortable with.
- Sunday Star Times
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