One way or the other, the end of an era nears for the Chiefs.

Just how the final chapter of their most successful period concludes is yet to be determined. But for those individuals set to depart, many of whom have played influential roles in transforming this franchise, exiting this weekend in Cape Town would be a hollow finish.

Views of Table Mountain or Camps Bay won't soften the blow.

Dave Rennie, by way of Wellington and Palmerston North, arrived in Hamilton and, alongside Wayne Smith, immediately delivered the Chiefs their first and second titles.


Six years on Rennie, along with assistant coach Kieran Keane, All Blacks Aaron Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, and James Lowe, Michael Leitch and Hika Elliot are all set for their curtain call.

Halves partners Cruden and Kerr-Barlow in particular have been there through it all.

Aaron Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow celebrate a 2012 title. Photo / Photosport
Aaron Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow celebrate a 2012 title. Photo / Photosport

This weekend, next, or in Super Rugby's grand finale; when and how that contingent bows out rests in their hands.

Prolonging the farewell tour is likely to form more of an unspoken current against the Stormers. But when so many of your key drivers will soon no longer be present, subconsciously at least it cannot be dismissed.

With two quarterfinals and one last four exit in the past three years, there is also a sense of unfinished business for the Chiefs.

In many ways this year has been another campaign of what ifs. Results wise, with Damian McKenzie leading their attack, the Chiefs could claim to be the second best Kiwi team after twice knocking over the Hurricanes.

Losses to the Crusaders and Stormers, and a poor draw with the Blues, ultimately forced them to travel to South Africa for the same quarterfinal they breezed through last year.

The Stormers are a different team to the one the Chiefs humbled then, highlighted by their 34-26 victory over Rennie's men in Cape Town earlier this year.


Last year's knockout match was the first time the Stormers had faced Kiwi opposition that season, and they were blown away (60-21) by the Chiefs' pace, skill and offloading. This year, the Lions find themselves in that precarious position.

Such a reality check saw Stormers coach, former Springboks midfielder Robbie Fleck, target major improvements in everything from conditioning to handling, tackling and their approach at the breakdown. Former Auckland coach and Blues skills advisor Paul Feeney came on board to offer specific insight into the New Zealand attitude.

"The Chiefs were outstanding," Fleck said of the 2016 quarterfinal. "They upped the tempo and intensity which we had not seen that year and we were completely outplayed. We had to really scratch our heads and think where to now. I'm grateful it happened because it enlightened us as to where we needed to go.

"We were so far behind the Chiefs that night. Our decision-making needed to be worked on and, thankfully, over the last couple of months things have started to come right for us.

"When we played the Chiefs in the round-robin we were happy to say we had caught up a bit of ground."

Losing Charlie Ngatai to an ankle injury significantly weakens the Chiefs midfield but All Blacks Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick and Anton Lienert-Brown should be well rested after a week off. The selection of Mitchell Brown, predominately a loose forward, at lock emphasises the speed the Chiefs will again attempt to adopt.

Victory over the Stormers, who have won their past three, would see the Chiefs return to New Zealand to face the winner of the Crusaders and Highlanders.

More importantly, it would give them another shot at honouring many of those central to their status.

Departing Chiefs:

Dave Rennie (Glasgow, Scotland)
Kieran Keane (Connacht, Ireland)
Aaron Cruden (Montpellier, France)
Tawera Kerr-Barlow (La Rochelle, France)
James Lowe (Leinster, Ireland)
Michael Leitch (Sunwolves, Japan)
Hika Elliot (US Oyonnax, France)