Time may have come to rest some Chiefs
The Chiefs' winning surge rolls on at the top of the Super Rugby table after their eighth victory on the trot but this week could be time for some players to rest.
Dave Rennie and his coaching staff have been reluctant to make too many unforced changes through the first half of the campaign as they mould a winning side, but could see this Saturday night's home match against the lowly placed Lions in Pukekohe as a chance to freshen the team.
Co-captain and loose forward Liam Messam looks in doubt with a painful rib injury suffered toward the end of Saturday's 33-14 win over the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium in front of a noisy 22,119 crowd.
Messam braved most of that remaining time with the Chiefs having already emptied their bench, coming off only with time almost up.
"It sort of highlights the attitude and work ethic of this group," Rennie said.
"He got a knock on the ribs and we'd already emptied the bench about 30 seconds earlier so the smart move would probably have been to get him straight off but he refused to come off and hung in there until about 20 seconds to go ... he hung in there about the last 10-12 minutes with pretty sore ribs."
Rennie said they would make a call on Messam's injury once they knew the full extent of it and were keen to get "a couple of new bodies in there in regard to some fresh legs for next week.
"Certainly some of those guys off the bench have been giving us great impact and it would be nice to reward them as well. We'll see how we bounce back and make a call then," he said.
John Mitchell's Johannesburg-based Lions are second bottom on the table with one win from eight matches and have travelled from South Africa after losing 34-20 to the Brumbies.
The Chiefs, who are just two bonus points clear of South African teams the Stormers and Bulls, have a trip to Brisbane the following week for a Sunday afternoon match against the Reds before taking their second bye, and will want to have key players fresh for that match against the defending champions.
No player in the Chiefs has now played every minute of every game after loosehead prop Sona Taumalolo was subbed off 15 minutes from the end on Saturday night to be replaced by Toby Smith, who has returned from a torn calf muscle that kept him out for nine weeks.
Star first five-eighth Aaron Cruden got his first rest when subbed during the Cheetahs match two weeks earlier in Bloemfontein.
Taumalolo was brought off after scoring his seventh try of the season, staying neck-and-neck with Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor who scored his seventh earlier in the match.
Hurricanes captain and All Black centre Conrad Smith described the Chiefs after Saturday night's match as "a quality side" and felt they would get a lot more credit for their winning deeds now they were back playing in New Zealand.
"They'll be in the mix come playoff time.
"They're just playing as a team and that's the best thing about them.
"They've got some quality individuals directing their game; they've got a 10 that's playing really well and have got some game breakers there.
"But they keep things really simple, they're not trying to reinvent the game of footy, just trying to do the simple things really well," Smith said.