Rugby: Chiefs face uphill task

A showdown of epic proportions is expected when the New Zealand Super Rugby heavyweights the Chiefs and Crusaders clash in Christchurch on Friday night.

The Chiefs are comfortably 10 points ahead of the Crusaders on the New Zealand Conference table and assured of a home semifinal, while the Crusaders are in fifth place in the overall standings, just three points behind the Reds.

The Crusaders hold the advantage in matches played between the two franchises since 1996 but significantly the Chiefs have won three of the last four games including a 28-19 win in round 15 in May. Incidentally, the last time they played each other in Christchurch was back in 2009.

The Chiefs regained their mojo last Friday night after four weeks out of action when they finished strongly to put away the Hurricanes by 34-22 in Hamilton.

Openside flanker Sam Cane, fresh from starting in all three tests for the All Blacks against France, says the win was important to kick-start their run to the finals. "Before the break we were building some momentum with our wins over the Hurricanes and Crusaders so to come back up after a month of not playing and win like that was pleasing to the boys.

We can play better but I guess it comes down to the boys' attitude and willingness to get out there and do the job, but also the work they had done over the break."

Cane says he had no problems slipping back into the fold after being away on All Blacks duty. "We have done a lot of work all year with the Chiefs boys so it is almost like coming back home and everything you are used to. The only hard thing was to take your head out of the All Blacks game plan which you have been trying to get your head around for three weeks and then switching into the Chiefs one."

Cane is expecting a massive test match-like atmosphere and intensity in Christchurch, Friday night and he is looking forward to matching up fellow All Black Matt Todd. "We will do our homework on our opposites but at the end of the day you have to focus on your role within the Chiefs game plan and execute that well because if we get 15 players in our team doing that, then individuals in their team should not really be a problem."

Beating the Crusaders is not a simple task and the Chiefs will need to be at the top of all facets of their game to get the victory.

"The key is to play for 80 minutes and they are the sort of team you can't turn possession over against or they will punish you. As always though, if we get a strong set piece then we can start to build pressure and when we do that we'll back ourselves."

- Hamilton News

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