Which Chiefs team will turn up tonight against the Rebels: the side who marauded their way to the top of the standings or the one who stumbled into their second bye?

There is a distinct split when assessing the Chiefs' performances through the first two-thirds of the season, a division that creates much intrigue over whether Dave Rennie's men are title favourites or mere playoff possibilities.

Those questions will begin to be answered in Hamilton tonight, when the onus will be firmly on the Chiefs' electric attack to find the potent form that blew away every opponent in the opening six rounds.

After their thrashing of the Brumbies, the Chiefs' averages were well ahead of the chasing pack in points scored (41.3), tries recorded (5.7) and metres made (544.3), ranking second in clean breaks (14.8).


But, in the four games since, those marks have plummeted.

The Chiefs scraped by the Blues, Hurricanes and Sharks before falling to the Highlanders, allowing the enemy to remain in games due to the decreased danger their attack posed - 23.5 points per game, 3.3 tries, 443.3 metres and 11.5 clean break.

In fairness, the Blues aside, those stumbles came against opponents boasting top-six defences, but it was clear to any observer that the Chiefs' problems were largely of their own making.

The support lines that were such a feature of their sparkling play were suddenly a little under-stocked and some of the improbable offloads that left defenders in the dirt were now struggling to find their target.

And, worryingly, there appeared to be no plan B.But the leader of the attack is adamant that has all changed.

After a week off to stew over defeat and ascertain just what was going wrong, Aaron Cruden insists his side can make the adjustments necessary to again resemble the team who were so unstoppable early in the competition.

Patience was one buzz word at practice this week and ball security was also emphasised, with the Chiefs well aware they were making too many errors to truly punish opponents.

"It's just about holding onto the ball for longer periods," Cruden said. "If we're trying to score off the second or third phase every time and coughing the ball up, we're not able to apply pressure."


So our catch-and-pass needs to improve and we're all responsible for it right across the board. A lot of guys were coughing up easy passes and that just continues to release the pressure valve.

"Given Charlie Ngatai is the only member of their explosive backline missing tonight, Cruden was confident those areas could be amended sooner rather than later. And the first five also hoped the lessons from the last few weeks would ultimately aid the Chiefs' title charge.

"We know we're capable of it, because for the first six or seven weeks of the competition things were going well. And if we learn from this, I don't think it's a bad thing heading into the back end of the season."