The best is still to come from in-form Chiefs

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2013
Dave Rennie
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DAVE RENNIE: "Can we be better? Absolutely, but we need to be at our best at the business end of the competition and I think we're building."

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It doesn't get much better for the Chiefs right now.

They are king of the hill in Super Rugby, comfortably topping the New Zealand Conference despite the resurgence of the Crusaders and in reality top overall when you add in their four points from this weekend's bye.

That nudges them two points ahead of official leaders the Brumbies, who have played an extra game.

Factor in that they have been brilliant on defence but far from perfect on attack, still making a number of tactical and handling blunders that have seen a number of tries go begging and the Chiefs are sitting in a superior position to the same stage last year.

"Last game going into the bye week, it was certainly a better performance than we had last year with the two games pre the bye," head coach Dave Rennie said after Saturday night's 23-16 win over the Blues at Mt Maunganui.

"So I'm really happy with the attitude. We know we can be better, but we ticked a few boxes that we needed to tonight."

Add in this weekend's bye - the Chiefs are the last Kiwi side to get it - and they get to 29 points without having to play another game. The break will give them a chance to recharge their batteries physically and mentally and bring some players back from injury, remembering that six were out injured for the latest match.

"It's been seven rounds for us and the equal of seven wins and a bonus point so we're really happy with that.

"Can we be better? Absolutely, but we need to be at our best at the business end of the competition and I think we're building."

The bad news from the match was the ankle injury suffered by in-form tighthead prop Ben Afeaki with ligament damage suspected, making it unlikely he will be back immediately after the break when the Chiefs host the Reds at Waikato Stadium on April 13.

But they are likely to get back Mahonri Schwalger, Craig Clarke and Tim Nanai-Williams for that match and there is an outside chance of Robbie Robinson also being back, although the following week is more likely.

"I think we'll be in a better position from a depth point of view."

And the form of young tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna will be vital in the coming weeks while Afeaki recovers.

While the coaches were less than thrilled with Tameifuna's chip kick on attack with a lineup of players outside him and a chance to put the foot on the Blues' throats, they are happy with his other work. "He's in a lot better nick than he was this time last year and with Ben Afeaki getting injured he's going to be really important to us."

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Meanwhile, the Chiefs players get four days off this week, albeit they are still following personal training programmes, before resuming team training on Thursday.

Rennie said it would be a useful couple of days at the end of the week, without a game to prepare for, focusing on key areas that had been letting them down such as their taking ball into contact and decision making.

- Waikato Times

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