Discipline against Lions crucial

Hurricanes' Motu Matu'u celebrates their win over the Chiefs.
Hurricanes' Motu Matu'u celebrates their win over the Chiefs.
Chiefs' Liam Messam in action against the Hurricanes.
Chiefs' Liam Messam in action against the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes' Julian Savea scores a try against the Chiefs.
Hurricanes' Julian Savea scores a try against the Chiefs.
Chiefs' Sonny Bill Williams in action against the Hurricanes.
Chiefs' Sonny Bill Williams in action against the Hurricanes.
Hika Elliot fends of Israel Dagg.
Hika Elliot fends of Israel Dagg.
Sam Cane gets a high ball.
Sam Cane gets a high ball.
Israel Dagg takes a high ball in front of Aaron Cruden.
Israel Dagg takes a high ball in front of Aaron Cruden.
Sonny Bill Williams scores his second half try.
Sonny Bill Williams scores his second half try.
Owen Franks tackles Brodie Retallick as he scores his first half try.
Owen Franks tackles Brodie Retallick as he scores his first half try.
Richie McCaw comes in to tackle Sona Taumalolo.
Richie McCaw comes in to tackle Sona Taumalolo.
Chiefs player Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Highlanders player Tamati Ellison.
Chiefs player Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Highlanders player Tamati Ellison.
Highlanders player Jarrad Hoeata is tackled.
Highlanders player Jarrad Hoeata is tackled.
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Highlanders players lie gutted on the ground after losing to the Chiefs 21-27.
Highlanders players lie gutted on the ground after losing to the Chiefs 21-27.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma chases the ball.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma chases the ball.
Sonny Bill Williams tackles Francis Saili.
Sonny Bill Williams tackles Francis Saili.
Blues player Francis Saili is tackled by Chiefs player Sona Taumalolo.
Blues player Francis Saili is tackled by Chiefs player Sona Taumalolo.
Chiefs and Blues players have a group hug at North Harbour Stadium.
Chiefs and Blues players have a group hug at North Harbour Stadium.
Aaron Cruden in action against the Bulls.
Aaron Cruden in action against the Bulls.
Sam Cane celebrates his try against the Bulls.
Sam Cane celebrates his try against the Bulls.
Sonny Bill Williams makes a breakaway in the Chiefs win over the Bulls.
Sonny Bill Williams makes a breakaway in the Chiefs win over the Bulls.
Chiefs left wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma dives over for a try against the Bulls.
Chiefs left wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma dives over for a try against the Bulls.
Aaron Cruden of the Cheifs makes a break past Jake Schatz of the Reds.
Aaron Cruden of the Cheifs makes a break past Jake Schatz of the Reds.
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs is treated after being injured against the Reds.
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs is treated after being injured against the Reds.
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled by Chiefs players.
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled by Chiefs players.
Will Genia of the Reds celebrates with team mates after scoring against the Chiefs.
Will Genia of the Reds celebrates with team mates after scoring against the Chiefs.
Mike Harris of the Reds passes against the Chiefs.
Mike Harris of the Reds passes against the Chiefs.
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled against the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium.
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled against the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium.
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga is tackled by Lions wing Lionel Mapoe and fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga is tackled by Lions wing Lionel Mapoe and fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden avoids the tackles of Lions fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden avoids the tackles of Lions fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke drives over to score.
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke drives over to score.
Chiefs halfback Brendon Leonard is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs halfback Brendon Leonard is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna reacts to the try of captain Craig Clarke.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna reacts to the try of captain Craig Clarke.
Chiefs second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs' hooker Hika Elliot makes a charge down field.
Chiefs' hooker Hika Elliot makes a charge down field.
Chiefs' second-five eighth Sony Bill Williams attempts to offload in the tackle.
Chiefs' second-five eighth Sony Bill Williams attempts to offload in the tackle.
Chiefs' players pay tribute to Sir Fred Allen prior to their game against the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs' players pay tribute to Sir Fred Allen prior to their game against the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium.
Charl Mcleod of the Sharks looks to tackle Alex Bradley at Mr Price Kings Park.
Charl Mcleod of the Sharks looks to tackle Alex Bradley at Mr Price Kings Park.
Sonny Bill Williams in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Sonny Bill Williams in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Alex Bradley in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Alex Bradley in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Craig Clarke, centre, of the Chiefs is tackled by Robert Ebersohn of the Cheetahs.
Craig Clarke, centre, of the Chiefs is tackled by Robert Ebersohn of the Cheetahs.
Hennie Daniller of the Cheetahs is tackled by the Chiefs.
Hennie Daniller of the Cheetahs is tackled by the Chiefs.
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs in action against the Cheetahs.
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs in action against the Cheetahs.
Piet van Zyl of the Cheetahs mid flight while playing the Chiefs.
Piet van Zyl of the Cheetahs mid flight while playing the Chiefs.
Sonny Bill Williams charges at the Force defence in Perth.
Sonny Bill Williams charges at the Force defence in Perth.
A tough man to bring down, Sona Taumalolo carries a Force player on his back.
A tough man to bring down, Sona Taumalolo carries a Force player on his back.
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga performs 'The Dougie' after scoring against the Force.
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga performs 'The Dougie' after scoring against the Force.
Richard Kahui runs clear of Winston Stanley at nib Stadium.
Richard Kahui runs clear of Winston Stanley at nib Stadium.
Arizona Taumalolo scores a try against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Arizona Taumalolo scores a try against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs players celebrate after Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs players celebrate after Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Tanerau Latimer on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Tanerau Latimer on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
A bloody Liam Messam in action against the Brumbies.
A bloody Liam Messam in action against the Brumbies.
Sonny Bill Williams could command top dollar to secure a contract after his stint with the Chiefs.
Sonny Bill Williams could command top dollar to secure a contract after his stint with the Chiefs.
Robbie Robinson passes against the Brumbies.
Robbie Robinson passes against the Brumbies.
Richard Kahui on the charge against the Brumbies.
Richard Kahui on the charge against the Brumbies.
Liam Messam on the charge against the Brumbies.
Liam Messam on the charge against the Brumbies.
Aaron Cruden in action against the Brumbies.
Aaron Cruden in action against the Brumbies.
The Chiefs' Arizona Taumalolo celebrates with Brodie Retallick at the end of their match against the Crusaders.
The Chiefs' Arizona Taumalolo celebrates with Brodie Retallick at the end of their match against the Crusaders.
Hika Elliot, Sonny Bill Williams, Zac Guildford, and Israel Dagg ham it up after their match at McLean Park.
Hika Elliot, Sonny Bill Williams, Zac Guildford, and Israel Dagg ham it up after their match at McLean Park.
George Whitelock (L) and Corey Flynn of the Crusaders tackle Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs.
George Whitelock (L) and Corey Flynn of the Crusaders tackle Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs.
Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs gets a kick away while being tackled against the Crusaders at McLean Park.
Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs gets a kick away while being tackled against the Crusaders at McLean Park.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow of the Chiefs is tackled by Kieran Read of the Crusaders.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow of the Chiefs is tackled by Kieran Read of the Crusaders.
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs picks up a loose ball under pressure from Israel Dagg of the Crusaders.
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs picks up a loose ball under pressure from Israel Dagg of the Crusaders.
Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams passes the ball in-field as he is pushed to the ground by Israel Dagg.
Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams passes the ball in-field as he is pushed to the ground by Israel Dagg.
Crusaders No 6 George Whitelock brings down a kick-off, under pressure from his Chiefs opposite Liam Messam.
Crusaders No 6 George Whitelock brings down a kick-off, under pressure from his Chiefs opposite Liam Messam.
Chiefs players Andrew Horrell, Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden celebrate their victory over the Blues.
Chiefs players Andrew Horrell, Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden celebrate their victory over the Blues.
Chiefs centre Richard Kahui watches anxiously from the bench in the second half.
Chiefs centre Richard Kahui watches anxiously from the bench in the second half.
Piri Weepu and Jerome Kaino of the Blues chase down Aaron Cruden and the ball.
Piri Weepu and Jerome Kaino of the Blues chase down Aaron Cruden and the ball.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Aaron Cruden kicks for goal during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Aaron Cruden kicks for goal during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams eludes the desperate dive of Blues halfback Alby Mathewson.
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams eludes the desperate dive of Blues halfback Alby Mathewson.
Andrew Hore trys to stop Lelia Masaga as he scores the Chiefs' first try.
Andrew Hore trys to stop Lelia Masaga as he scores the Chiefs' first try.
Sonny Bill Williams on the charge against the Highlanders.
Sonny Bill Williams on the charge against the Highlanders.
Sonny Bill Williams  jumps above Josh Bekhuis.
Sonny Bill Williams jumps above Josh Bekhuis.
Chris Noakes comes in to tackle  Fritz Lee.
Chris Noakes comes in to tackle Fritz Lee.
Adam Thomson passes against the Chiefs.
Adam Thomson passes against the Chiefs.

Tonight's match could be the ultimate test for Dave Rennie's men. Evan Pegden reports.

The contrast could not be greater.

The Chiefs sit at the top of the Super Rugby table and the Lions second from bottom – only ahead of the Blues at this stage because they have had both their byes which each carry with them four competition points.

DAVE RENNIE: "The guys have worked hard to get themselves in the position that we're in so that it is key we keep the same sort of energy levels and expectations of each other."
DAVE RENNIE: "The guys have worked hard to get themselves in the position that we're in so that it is key we keep the same sort of energy levels and expectations of each other."

The Chiefs lost their first game of the season and have won all eight since, while the Johannesburg-based Lions, who last year won South Africa's provincial championship, the Currie Cup, won their first match and have lost every one since.

That potentially is a metaphorical "banana skin" for the front-running Chiefs, who will find it difficult to get themselves up for this match no matter what is said in pre-match team talks.

But it will be a good measure of just how high the Chiefs hold their desire to maintain standards and keep improving week to week. Dave Rennie and his coaching/management group have done a good job of ensuring that so far – but this in many ways is the ultimate test.

If the Chiefs win – and they should do so comfortably with a try-scoring bonus point as well if they play anywhere near the level they did last week – they will equal their best ever season of nine wins and they are only just past halfway mark in their season.

But such records are hardly motivators for the players. Rennie and co just have to keep them focused on improving their execution of the game plan and striving for excellence.

He has made some changes to the forward pack to try and get fresh legs and enthusiasm in there while resting a couple of players in particular who have carried a heavy load to date.

"The guys have worked hard to get themselves in the position that we're in so that it is key we keep the same sort of energy levels and expectations of each other," Rennie said.

In some ways it is a shame the Chiefs are leaving their Hamilton base to play this one in Pukekohe tonight after the big turnout for the Hurricanes game at Waikato Stadium last week. But this is a rare visit to what is now known as the ECOLight Stadium and on a fine night that should go a long way towards filling a good chunk of the 18,000 capacity.

"A lot of these boys have played a lot of footy there obviously over the years. It's a good ground, weather-wise it's supposed to be a good night so, hopefully, we'll get plenty of people along," he said.

The Lions, coached by one of Waikato rugby's favourite sons, John Mitchell, who himself coached the Chiefs back in 2001, have little to lose and have given three young players a go this week in the form of giant 2.01m, 115kg blindside flanker Grant Hattingh, halfback Ross Cronje and 2.04m lock Ruan Botha.

Derick Minnie moves back to his favoured openside flank berth, with the long-serving Cobus Grobbelaar dropping to the bench.

There is no Butch James in the side this week after he was suspended for four weeks for his illegal launch into a ruck against the Brumbies in Johannesburg last week.

Loosehead prop Caylib Oosthuizen needs to pass a late fitness test to take his place or he will be replaced by JC Janse van Rensburg, who along with bench prop CJ Van der Linde, is coming back from a long injury layoff. Also on the bench is former Waikato wing James Kamana.

The Chiefs have never lost to the Lions in New Zealand and only once been held by them to under 34 points here, but it should be noted that in their last four meetings there have never been more than seven points between them.

The difference this time should be the much improved Chiefs defence and the more physical, hard working forward play the home side are producing in 2012.

AT A GLANCE

Chiefs: Andrew Horrell, Lelia Masaga, Richard Kahui, Sonny Bill Williams, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Brendon Leonard, Kane Thompson, Sam Cane, Tanerau Latimer, Michael Fitzgerald, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith. Res: Mahonri Schwalger, Sona Taumalolo, Alex Bradley, Scott Waldrom, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Jackson Willison, Maritino Nemani.

Lions: Andries Coetzee, Deon van Rensburg, Jaco Taute, Alwyn Hollenbach, Lione Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Josh Strauss (c), Grant Hattingh, Derick Minnie, Ruan Botha, Franco van der Merwe, Patrick Cilliers, Callie Visagie, Caylib Oosthuizen or JC Janse van Rensburg. Res: Martin Bezuidenhout, CJ Van der Linde, Cobus Grobbelaar, Jaco Kriel, Tian Meyer, James Kamana, Michael Killian. Referee: Ian Smith (Australia).

Kickoff: 7.35 tonight at ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe.

Waikato Times