Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Why the Chiefs must win ...


Herald rugby writers offer differing views on the stakes for tomorrow night's Super Rugby blockbuster.

Livewire Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow. Photo / Getty Images
Livewire Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow. Photo / Getty Images

No one needs to remind the Chiefs about the importance of this match.

A loss may scupper their chances of a third Super 15 title.

Defeat for the Chiefs could see them lurch from top of the New Zealand pool to last in an inauspicious start at the franchise's new arena.


And with the Chiefs then heading for a bye and no chance of any competition points, they could quickly be staring at an impossible gap to their franchise rivals. The Chiefs reversed their blotchy recent results with victory against the Lions and need another tomorrow.

• Read Patrick McKendry's differing view here.

The chasing Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders are all playing opponents well down the ladder and if the Blues get the gold in New Plymouth they can sneak ahead of the Chiefs on points difference.

Victory will give the Chiefs time to repair more troops from their casualty ward.

"We've been through enough experiences now that will hopefully get us through these tough times and last week was a great step in the right direction," assistant coach Wayne Smith said. "I guess a lot of people are starting to write us off but we're just really focused in our circle, our group, on what we can control."

Those fundamentals of scrum, lineout and tackled ball delivery, support play and defensive pressure will have been reinforced at the squad's Ruakura headquarters in Hamilton. All those areas of their game need to be better to fend off the challenge from the Blues.

Injuries remain a curse but the recent return of halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow should be a boost if he can vary his game to give Gareth Anscombe time to use the ball wide or plot his side around the ground with his strong kicking game.

Anscombe's ability to kick goals from much greater distances than Simon Hickey will be an advantage in a game which will have an arm-wrestle element amidst rulings imposed by referee Mike Fraser.

A Chiefs victory will give them greater conviction they can regroup after their bye and push on to the playoffs with Aaron Cruden back to help generate that momentum. Confidence comes with results, another W in the results column will give the squad a better feeling about themselves as they get a few days off before resuming their rugby routines.

The Chiefs need to send messages they are well in the scrap for this year's title, that they are over their mid-tournament woes and on an upward curve to the sharp end of the series. Qualifiers from the Kiwi conference are not likely to be decided until the final round when the Blues host the Chiefs at Eden Park, so if the Chiefs are to make the playoffs, victory tonight will be a strong weapon for that rematch.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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