The Highlanders will be in a less charitable mood on Saturday, as they look to prove their ‘no-name brand’ team is not a one-hit wonder.
The manner of last week’s first-half destruction of the Blues would have filled the Highlanders with confidence, but they have not been helped with the loss of their most experienced forward, Brad Thorn, with a rib injury.
Despite the loss coach Jamie Joseph felt there were enough positives to take out of last week’s win to ensure they get the consistency that can make them genuine contenders.
The Dunedin-based outfit will likely again base their game on resolute defence.
The Chiefs are in a very different frame of mind, with coach Dave Rennie speaking about the problem areas that needed work – the set-pieces, particularly the line-outs.
“We need more ball and it’s not just winning ball but the quality of ball we win,” Rennie said, adding: “If we can do that we can apply more pressure on the opposition.”
The quality of their ball retention and execution of their structures also needed work, but the defence had been outstanding.
“We’re a pretty grounded bunch and we know the Highlanders are playing with a lot of spirit as well so they’ll be a handful at the weekend.
“I thought they were really combative at the weekend and playing very similar to us in regard to getting a lot of forwards carrying in tight off nine, while they were very good post-tackle, getting guys in and slowing the ball down so we’ll really have to be real sharp in that area,” Rennie added.
The Highlanders coach, Joseph, said the Chiefs have set the benchmark in Super Rugby in recent years, but added that his side was looking forward to taking on the Chiefs.
”I have not focused too much on them, because they are such a good side,” Joseph said, adding: “We just have to look at our own side and prepare the best we can and do the job we want to.
”Last week they played the Crusaders, a team loaded with All Blacks and they beat them. So it doesn’t matter who plays for them.
”They are the pinnacle really. When they can get a team to beat the Crusaders last week suggests they are more than well organised.
“They have real commitment, real ability and any team that knocks them over has to be on their game.
”They have set the benchmark and we are trying to emulate some of the stuff that they do.”
2013: Chiefs won 19-7, Hamilton
2013: Chiefs won 41-27, Dunedin
2012: Chiefs won 27-21, Dunedin
2012: Highlanders won 23-19, Hamilton
2011: Chiefs won 20-7, Hamilton
2011: Highlanders won 23-13, Dunedin
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Webber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 James Lowe.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Malakai Fekitoa, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson, (New Zealand) Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)