The Chiefs, known for their explosive attack throughout Dave Rennie's six-year reign, are suddenly misfiring.

That's the only way to describe what happened in Hamilton on Saturday night, when one of the competition favourites barely beat the cellar dwellers.

Heading into what was supposed to be a one-sided affair to reflect those respective standings, the Sunwolves were shipping an average 43.3 points per match, never leaving the foot of the table after being crushed by the Hurricanes in week one.

And yet, the Chiefs struggled to 27 at home - crossing for their fourth and final try only through a piece of Damian McKenzie magic - and such attacking inadequacy followed their season-low 16 points in last week's win over the Force.

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With 32 tries this year, they trail the Hurricanes by 24 and the Crusaders by 19. In fact, they trail the lowly Kings by one. And it's easy to see why: the Chiefs sit 10th in the competition in clean breaks, ninth in defenders beaten and eighth in metres made.

Put simply, their typically high-powered attack has suffered a serious outage. The Chiefs may have sustained only one defeat from nine games, they may have accrued the second-most competition points in Super Rugby, but the attack in its current form can hardly be described as a potentially title-winning unit.

It's a good thing, then, that McKenzie insists a change is coming.

"It's a little bit frustrating at times," the fullback said after scoring a brace in Saturday night's win. "We're pretty close to nailing a few things, but there's some discipline and handling errors letting us down. "We're playing some good footy at times and stringing together some good plays. It's just a matter of building a bit more pressure and just being patient. Then points will come after that."

That patience, however, was part of the problem against the Sunwolves. Having thrown away possession with reckless abandon while edging the Force, the Chiefs took their coaches' message about ball retention to damaging extremes, sniping constantly around the rucks instead of attempting risky but high-reward plays out wide.

The lack of balance in attack was, along with a shoddy set piece, the biggest factor in the Chiefs' woes, starving the likes of McKenzie of the ball he needed to make the match far more comfortable.

"We can't growl too much," McKenzie said. "If you'd said at the start of the season we'd be eight from nine, we would've taken that. It's nearly there, we're about to click, and hopefully we can look over the tape and make amends [against the Reds] in New Plymouth next week."