Discipline against Lions crucial

17:00, May 04 2012
Chiefs v Highlanders
Sonny Bill Williams jumps above Josh Bekhuis.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Chris Noakes comes in to tackle Fritz Lee.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Sonny Bill Williams on the charge against the Highlanders.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Adam Thomson passes against the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Andrew Hore trys to stop Lelia Masaga as he scores the Chiefs' first try.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams eludes the desperate dive of Blues halfback Alby Mathewson.
Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden kicks for goal during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Tawera Kerr-Barlow dives over for his try during the Chiefs round two win over the Blues.
Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Jerome Kaino
Piri Weepu and Jerome Kaino of the Blues chase down Aaron Cruden and the ball.
Chiefs players celebrate
Chiefs players Andrew Horrell, Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden celebrate their victory over the Blues.
Richard Kahui
Chiefs centre Richard Kahui watches anxiously from the bench in the second half.
Tim Nanai-Williams and Israel Dagg
Chiefs wing Tim Nanai-Williams passes the ball in-field as he is pushed to the ground by Israel Dagg.
George Whitelock and Liam Messam
Crusaders No 6 George Whitelock brings down a kick-off, under pressure from his Chiefs opposite Liam Messam.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs picks up a loose ball under pressure from Israel Dagg of the Crusaders.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Tawera Kerr-Barlow of the Chiefs is tackled by Kieran Read of the Crusaders.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs gets a kick away while being tackled against the Crusaders at McLean Park.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
George Whitelock (L) and Corey Flynn of the Crusaders tackle Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
The Chiefs' Arizona Taumalolo celebrates with Brodie Retallick at the end of their match against the Crusaders.
Chiefs v Crusaders gallery
Hika Elliot, Sonny Bill Williams, Zac Guildford, and Israel Dagg ham it up after their match at McLean Park.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
A bloody Liam Messam in action against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Aaron Cruden in action against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Liam Messam on the charge against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Richard Kahui on the charge against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Robbie Robinson passes against the Brumbies.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Sonny Bill Williams could command top dollar to secure a contract after his stint with the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Arizona Taumalolo scores a try against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Tawera Kerr-Barlow on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Chiefs players celebrate after Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Liam Messam scores against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Brumbies gallery
Tanerau Latimer on the charge against the Waratahs at Waikato Stadium.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams charges at the Force defence in Perth.
Lelia Masaga
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga performs 'The Dougie' after scoring against the Force.
Sona Taumalolo
A tough man to bring down, Sona Taumalolo carries a Force player on his back.
Richard Kahui
Richard Kahui runs clear of Winston Stanley at nib Stadium.
Sonny Bill Williams
Piet van Zyl of the Cheetahs mid flight while playing the Chiefs.
Sonny Bill Williams
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs in action against the Cheetahs.
Sonny Bill Williams
Hennie Daniller of the Cheetahs is tackled by the Chiefs.
Sonny Bill Williams
Craig Clarke, centre, of the Chiefs is tackled by Robert Ebersohn of the Cheetahs.
Chiefs v Sharks
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Asaeli Tikoirotuma in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Tawera Kerr-Barlow in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Sonny Bill Williams in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Charl Mcleod of the Sharks looks to tackle Alex Bradley at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs v Sharks
Alex Bradley in action aginst the Sharks at Mr Price Kings Park.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs' players pay tribute to Sir Fred Allen prior to their game against the Hurricanes at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs' hooker Hika Elliot makes a charge down field.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs' second-five eighth Sony Bill Williams attempts to offload in the tackle.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga is tackled by Lions wing Lionel Mapoe and fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs halfback Brendon Leonard is tackled by Lions No8 Joshua Strauss.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna reacts to the try of captain Craig Clarke.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke drives over to score.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden avoids the tackles of Lions fullback Andries Coetzee.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled by Chiefs players.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Aaron Cruden of the Cheifs makes a break past Jake Schatz of the Reds.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs is treated after being injured against the Reds.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Will Genia of the Reds celebrates with team mates after scoring against the Chiefs.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Mike Harris of the Reds passes against the Chiefs.
Chiefs gallery 2012
Jake Schatz of the Reds is tackled against the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Chiefs left wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma dives over for a try against the Bulls.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams makes a breakaway in the Chiefs win over the Bulls.
Sam Cane
Sam Cane celebrates his try against the Bulls.
Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden in action against the Bulls.
Blues v Chiefs
Chiefs and Blues players have a group hug at North Harbour Stadium.
Blues v Chiefs
Asaeli Tikoirotuma chases the ball.
Blues v Chiefs
Blues player Francis Saili is tackled by Chiefs player Sona Taumalolo.
Blues v Chiefs
Sonny Bill Williams tackles Francis Saili.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Chiefs player Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by Highlanders player Tamati Ellison.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Highlanders players lie gutted on the ground after losing to the Chiefs 21-27.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Highlanders player Hosea Gear about to be tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Highlanders player Jarrad Hoeata is tackled.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Richie McCaw comes in to tackle Sona Taumalolo.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Owen Franks tackles Brodie Retallick as he scores his first half try.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Sonny Bill Williams scores his second half try.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Israel Dagg takes a high ball in front of Aaron Cruden.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Sam Cane gets a high ball.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Hika Elliot fends of Israel Dagg.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Hurricanes' Motu Matu'u celebrates their win over the Chiefs.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Hurricanes' Julian Savea scores a try against the Chiefs.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Chiefs' Sonny Bill Williams in action against the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Chiefs' Liam Messam in action against the Hurricanes.

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
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.

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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