The beginning of the end for Dave Rennie will be all about breaking an unwanted habit.

Approaching his final season as Chiefs coach, Rennie's men will kick off their campaign in Dunedin tonight, hoping to edge the Highlanders for the first time in three years.

The southern side have won six straight matches across that period, earning victory by an average margin of 11.2 points.

But Rennie said he was "not sure that counts for much", pointing out his side held their own four-game winning streak in the rivalry before the Highlanders took charge.


"What it highlights is they're a really strong side. They've been in the playoffs the last three years and won the title a couple of years ago," Rennie told Radio Sport.

"So they're a tough side. They've normally got a gnarly pack and a pretty impressive backline, so it should be a big challenge."

Emphasising the exact size of that challenge is another statistic that will make the Chiefs wince.

That All Black-laden backline Rennie mentioned is built to excel in the friendly confines of Forsyth Barr Stadium, helping the Highlanders win 11 of their past 12 games at home.

But the Chiefs - no strangers to electric attacking play themselves - should also enjoy the perfect pitch and dry ball Dunedin provides, with Rennie reminiscing fondly about the conditions the last time the Chiefs beat the Highlanders there.

"We opened the season with the Highlanders in 2013 and, looking back on my time at the Chiefs, that's one of the best games I've been involved in. We won it [41-27] but the Highlanders were superb that night," said Rennie.

"And I think you may get a similar contest [tonight]. We're guaranteed a dry ball and it won't be muggy like it was in Brisbane [for the Global Tens tournament]. It makes for a hell of a game."