Chiefs centurion Tanerau Latimer says the back-to-back Super Rugby champions have not been up to the required standard for most of the season.
That is despite them leading the New Zealand Conference after 11 of the 16 games in the regular season.
In fact, his blunt assessment of the Chiefs' season to date is that their performance in a 32-20 victory over the Blues in their last game going into last week's bye was the first time they had really fired in 2014.
"I don't think we've been up to the standard, to be honest," loose forward veteran Latimer said.
"We didn't drift away from it, we just hadn't reached the standard all year until that Blues game.
"The coaches might put it differently but that's my opinion and hopefully the boys have got a taste of it now and know what it's like now."
Six wins, two draws and three losses have come from a mixture of patchy performances and some dogged defence, but even the latter had been barely hanging on at times in earlier games, Latimer said.
"It has been there, but it's just been there and it hasn't been as effective as it was two weeks ago [against the Blues].
"That was all about effort. Getting up off the line, making back-to-back tackles."
Latimer said it was very satisfying to get back "a little bit to the old Chiefs rugby" and the players had all mentioned it this week after they reassembled after their bye.
"I think the most pleasing thing for us is that the Blues had a lot of ball in that second half and camped on our line, but we just held strong. Yes, they scored a try but to experience the feeling, just looking in each other's eyes and doing it for each other was phenomenal.
"Men don't hug too much but after that game you saw the boys doing a lot of high fiving and hugging, because it was getting back to that same old feeling."
Latimer said it was very encouraging for the Chiefs coming into the business end of the season.
"It just shows we've got it in us. It took a long time to get it out of us but we know we can do it now."
After nine games on the trot the Chiefs were hanging out for last weekend's bye, but Latimer admits that after finally putting their game together against the Blues there was the thought in the back of their minds that they wanted to keep the roll going.
"I'm sure it wasn't just because of the break coming up [that they performed so well against the Blues], but if we look at it this way we've got two weeks now before the next break [for the June test window] to again give it our all."
Latimer is wary of this Saturday night's opponents in Wellington, the Hurricanes, but said it was a case of just keeping trucking along in the same direction for the Chiefs.
He only saw highlights of the Highlanders' win over the Canes last weekend but said it was obvious the southerners had put their opponents under a lot of pressure.
"And that's what we've got to do on Saturday."
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