Riding high at the Super Rugby summit, the Chiefs will look to continue their impressive start to the campaign with a win over the Blues.
Their most recent victory, a 48-23 hammering of the Brumbies that yet again saw them cut loose in the second half, was a thing of beauty.
Damian McKenzie was electric once more while Aaron Cruden stepped up his recovery with a superb display that saw him set up three scores.
What’s worth noting is this backline is one of, if not the, lightest and shortest in the competition. Isn’t that a refreshing fact in this day and age of believing that bigger is better in rugby. McKenzie, Cruden, Brad Weber and James Lowe are certainly rubbishing such words.
McKenzie tops the try and points chart while Lowe has the most metres in the competition. Both are thoroughly enjoying this season start.
Friday’s opponents have been far from as slick and know they will get punished if they don’t improve in Hamilton on Friday, with last week’s win over a second string Jaguares sorely needed. While it wasn’t pretty, it’s worth noting that no one has beaten the Argentines handsomely.
What won’t make good reading for Tana Umaga’s side is that the Chiefs have won their last nine matches against the Blues, which is their longest streak against any opponent in Super Rugby. And in this kind of recent form, few would bet against them making it ten in Hamilton.
The Blues are missing powerful All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu and again choose to leave Akira Ioane and George Moala on the bench, with the hope they’re still in the game just after half-time.
Unfortunately that might not be the case as it’s not just after the break that the table toppers have been firing in, as they have scored twelve tries in the first half so far this season, the most of any team, while the Blues have conceded seven tries in the same period, the equal most of any New Zealand team. It’s therefore no surprise that the Chiefs are heavy favourites.
2015: Chiefs won 23-16 in Hamilton
2015: Chiefs won 23-18 in Albany
2014: Chiefs won 11-08 in Auckland
2014: Chiefs won 32-20 in New Plymouth
2013: Chiefs won 26-16 in Auckland
2013: Chiefs won 23-16 in Mount Maunganui
2012: Chiefs won 41-34 in Auckland
2012: Chiefs won 29-14 in Hamilton
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Maama Vaipulu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Seta Tamanivalu, 23 Sam McNicol
Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Hoani Matenga, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Namatahi Waa, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 George Moala
Date: Friday, April 8
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock, Kane McBride
TMO: Shane McDermott