Is the Super Rugby season too long?
They've won the NZ conference but want home game advantage, Evan Pegden reports.
The Chiefs have been ticking off their achieved objectives as the Super Rugby regular season has gone along and one remains before the playoffs.
They go into tonight's final round-robin match against the Hurricanes in Wellington having already won the New Zealand conference and having clinched next week off before a home semifinal in Hamilton.
Now they have a chance to go one better with a win at Westpac Stadium, with a bonus point also needed if they are to secure top seeding and home advantage tonight, for a possible final, without waiting for other results to fall their way.
And despite changing half their starting team for this match, they are certainly going for it.
"We're going down there to win and if we can get four tries, then we know we're guaranteed No 1 seed," Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said.
"But we're well aware that they're going to play a fair bit of footy too. They need five [points] really to have a chance, as 57 won't be enough for them, so I'd imagine they'll throw it around a bit and it should be a hell of a game."
There is the danger that the Chiefs will get trapped into playing too loose as both teams bid to get four tries, but Rennie is adamant that won't happen.
They haven't even discussed targeting four tries within the team and you won't see Barbarian-style football from his players.
"We'll still play our style of footy, because we believe we can score four tries by playing our structure, but we just need to be mindful of the fact that they'll probably have a crack from all over the place.
"If we do that and do the little things really well, then that will create opportunities for us."
While the Hurricanes are a very different opponent to the Crusaders and could be perceived as being vulnerable in the scrum, Rennie warned such things should not be taken for granted.
"People will look from the outside and say their scrum really struggled against the Crusaders and there's an opportunity for us. It's certainly an area we want to dominate, but we know from week to week everyone tweaks things and they work hard, and they'll know getting some quality scrum ball will be important for them.
"And putting the acid on us will be important for them too, so we've got to make sure we're up for that."
After last week's lineout debacle in the absence of skipper and lineout caller Craig Clarke, the big lock pulling out sick hours before kickoff, there has certainly been some tweaking of that facet of the Chiefs' game this week.
"The good thing is that when you get tested by another good pack it gives us a bit of an indication of where our attitude needs to be leading into the big games," Rennie said. "We learnt some valuable lessons and so we've had to tidy up a few little things but we're reasonably happy with where we're at.
"It's a positive time to get a lesson like that. We got beaten but we learnt a lot from it and we're still in a position to dictate our own destiny. It was good for us from that point of view."
Confidence is oozing out of the Hurricanes camp, with former Chiefs prop Ben May saying the side are mentally and physically better equipped than last time they played the high-flying Chiefs – a match that resulted in a 33-14 win to the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium with Aaron Cruden kicking 18 points to go with his team's three tries.
The Chiefs coaches have tinkered with their team this week but still have the makings of a strong lineup with good impact off the bench.
Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Chris Eaton, Victor Vito, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Dane Coles, Reg Goodes. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Brad Shields, Frae Wilson, Tusi Pisi, Jayden Hayward.
Chiefs: Andrew Horrell, Lelia Masaga, Jackson Willison, Sonny Bill Williams, Robbie Robinson, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Kane Thompson, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Sona Taumalolo, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Brendon Leonard, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Tim Nanai-Williams. Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).
Kickoff: 7.35 tonight, Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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