If equalling a Super Rugby record was "a bit of a fluke", earning elevation to the All Blacks would be far from accidental.

Charlie Ngatai's red-hot season reached boiling point in the Chiefs' thrashing of the Force on Saturday, snagging a quartet of tries to put an exclamation point on an already strong case for selection in the June internationals.

With the All Blacks be looking to replace 197 caps of midfield experience in the series against Wales, Ngatai's form for his franchise has surely made him the front-runner to fill Ma'a Nonu's No 12 jersey.

And the same could have been said before his outburst in Hamilton. Ngatai has played every minute of consequence for the Chiefs, with footwork, a fend and speed in the opening field seeing the 25-year-old rank inside the competition's top three in clean breaks and defenders beaten.


His influence, though, has been about much more than the ability to punch through a hole or, as he showed on Saturday, finish a move. Ngatai has also been kicking well tactically and defending with solidity, helping add balance to the competition-leaders' explosive attack.

All of those attributes appear to have positioned him ahead of Ryan Crotty and George Moala in the race to replace Nonu, though Chiefs coach Dave Rennie was doing his best to downplay any international guarantees.

"He's well aware, like anyone, that if you perform well at Super Rugby level then you may get a call-up," Rennie said. "We're certainly not looking to put any extra pressure on him - he's an outstanding player who's in a rich vein of form.

"But he has to continue that to make the All Black selectors seriously look at him. No doubt he'll be in the frame but there's a number of good midfielders around."

Ngatai has in the past played both centre and second-five for the Chiefs, but the absence of Sonny Bill Williams has seen him shine exclusively with No 12 on his back.

With Williams, Nonu and Conrad Smith out of the picture, only Malakai Fekitoa remains from the midfield group who went to the World Cup. And while the idea of a Ngatai-Fekitoa combination holds appeal, with the pair seeming to possess complementary skillsets, Ngatai was as circumspect as his coach when assessing his All Blacks prospects.

"I'm not too sure but it's something you strive for - the All Black jersey," he said. "There's a lot of competition with George and also Ryan Crotty back, but there's a big gaping hole for someone to put their hand up."

Ngatai's hand is certainly raised as high as it's been in his career. Given he's captained New Zealand Maori and made his All Blacks debut among a decimated squad last year in Samoa, the Taranaki man has long been in the international picture.

Perhaps only a nagging habit of picking up untimely injuries has held him back, with Ngatai's current form an indication of what he can achieve when fully fit.

"I'm getting a lot more confident just playing out there consistently without picking up little injuries," he said. "I think I'm playing a lot better than I was in previous years and being out there for 80 minutes helps your game."

It also helps in the try-scoring stakes, though Ngatai seemed almost embarrassed to write his name in the Super Rugby records books.

"It was a bit of a fluke - I was just on the end of the line and finishing it," he said. "In the end I got four but I was pretty lucky."