Chiefs co-captain Sam Cane is touch and go to be ready for Friday night's Super Rugby opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin, while halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow is primed to take on Aaron Smith.

Cane is battling an ankle issue, but will not take the field unless he is 100 percent. His replacement, coach Dave Rennie has confirmed, should one be needed, will be either Lachlan Boshier or Mitch Karpik, both good opensides over the ball. The decision will be made on Wednesday when the match-day squad is named.

"I'm pretty much getting through full trainings, but it's a long season so I don't want to come back one or two weeks too early and have to manage it through the season," Cane says.

Whether he plays or not, he has yet to master why the Highlanders have had the wood on them in the last six encounters, though the pack examination and an accurate kick-chase game always offer stern tests for the Chiefs. Last season the Highlanders edged both encounters, 26-13 and 25-15.


"I hate to admit it, but it's true, they've had our number. There have been some close ones, but they seem to come out on top. They are a really good side and play particularly well down there. Their ABs run the cutter and the others just do their job around them," Cane says.

Cane is off contract at the end of 2017, but says contract negotiations have only just started for an extension, while Kerr-Barlow, who was said, by French media, to have aroused the interest of big-spending Toulon, is also off contract at the end of the season.

"I'll probably decide pretty soon. It's probably dragged on a bit longer than I wanted, it's a bit of a hooha to have these things on when rugby is starting, but my management and I will sort that out soon," says Kerr-Barlow.

The 26-year-old, who started the November test against Italy, says Forsyth Barr Stadium is his second favourite ground after Waikato Stadium.

"You always get a dry track and an intense game," he says, adding that he is keen to lock horns with Smith, a "cheeky little bugger."

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie identified the scrum as a work-on after the Blues dented them there on Friday evening in Auckland. Former Chief Pauliasi Manu gave them some stick.

So the Chiefs' set-piece will need to be solid against a franchise that prides itself in that area.