Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Chiefs-Brumbies showdown a finals pointer

Chiefs v Brumbies, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth 20th February 2015. Photo / Sportpix
Chiefs v Brumbies, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth 20th February 2015. Photo / Sportpix

It's early to be thinking about Super Rugby finalists and yet hard not to with the Chiefs playing the Brumbies this weekend.

Even just six weeks into the season, the game in Canberra tomorrow feels like it carries greater significance than most.

The Chiefs playing the Brumbies in Hamilton on August 6 ... it has to be a possibility.

There's something about both teams that projects this sense of superiority - that they have the players, coaching calibre and resilience to be playing as well in July as they are now.

The Chiefs especially have found an edge and flow to their game which looks sustainable. Their strategy of using Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie wherever they feel like it has given them decisive option taking at critical times.

Charlie Ngatai has matured into the best second-five in New Zealand and with halfbacks Brad Weber and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, they have the ability to adapt their game to any circumstance.

The forwards have shown themselves capable of fronting at the set piece and tackled ball and able to find a way to hang in there no matter what. They have character and their victories in recent weeks have shown they also have the depth to weather even the most extreme injury crises.

As good as they have been so far, the Chiefs have the capacity to get better and even when they don't play well, they know how to dig out tight wins. Much of that comes from the wisdom within their coaching group which understands the need to plan, prepare, adapt strategically and rest and rotate players.

The Brumbies are much the same. They have an equally adept and insightful coaching group and a forward pack that is challenging the widely held perception that Australian forwards can't scrummage.

They have a deadly rolling maul, the ball-winning genius of David Pocock, the composure and defensive prowess of Matt Toomua and the power of Tevita Kuridrani which gives them weapons all over the field.

What happens in Canberra will be telling. Can the Chiefs diffuse the influence of Pocock and Scott Fardy? Can the Brumbies close down Cruden and McKenzie and push Ngatai into dead ends?

Can the Chiefs find a means to legally stop the Brumbies' go-to option of driving at the lineout and how will their aspiring All Black hookers acquit themselves against Wallabies captain Stephen Moore?

The answers will reveal plenty about the mental toughness and strategic intelligence of both teams. Much will be learned about their respective abilities to deal with pressure and execute a well-rehearsed plan.

- NZ Herald

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