There is always an extra edge to the New Zealand Conference Super Rugby clashes.

But the Chiefs-Hurricanes arm wrestle on Friday night in Hamilton pushed the envelope in a bitterly contested 80 minutes in which Michael Leitch was yellow carded, then suspended for a match due to a dangerous tackle, Michael Fatialofa was binned for a silly no-arms tackle, there was continuous niggle in the collision area, and constant sledging from the likes of Brodie Retallick and TJ Perenara. All in torrential rain with a referee - Brendon Pickerill - who could barely contain his frustration.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie played down the push and shove, while his Hurricanes counterpart Chris Boyd raised concerns about some off the ball incidents. Dane Coles cut a frustrated skipper, as befits one who wears his heart on his sleeve. A dry night might have opened the rugby up a lot more, but that is a big 'might.'

One might expect a similar style of contest this Saturday night when the Hurricanes host the Highlanders in a rematch of the 2015 final, which was as tight as a drum. The hope is that there will be less rain and just as much skill in the circumstances, despite both sides missing a clutch of top players.


"The Highlanders will still put a pretty good XV on the field. Hurricanes-Highlanders will be massive, no matter what is happening, so we are under no allusions as to the challenge ahead," says Hurricanes assistant coach Jason Holland.

Onto the niggle.

"I don't know if we got drawn into niggle. We know the way the Chiefs are going to play the game. We didn't respond as aggressively or as cleverly as we'd like, so that's the long and the short of it, really. The Chiefs play right on the edge. They'll put the refs under massive pressure around a lot of things, so we've got to be really good around how we control ourselves, but you've got to meet fire with fire. You can't be bullied in any way. Chiefs-Hurricanes, I don't think that's going to change in years to come," Holland says.

Perenara and Beauden Barrett will seek to control play with more authority, after Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden controlled the tempo and airways last Friday. The absence of the hamstrung Lima Sopoaga this weekend will put more heat on Aaron Smith to get on top of his All Blacks rival Perenara.

"We want to execute our kicking game a little bit better this weekend. We have to make sure our kicks go where we want them so we can put pressure on. We'll hone in on our skills and makes sure out set-piece and D is right against them," Holland says.

"The boys will be ready to go again. You've got to keep a clear head but be aggressive when there are boys around you who know you well and are having a good crack at you."

There was no update yesterday on Nehe Milner-Skudder's ankle, but he will certainly not be fit for this weekend. Jordie Barrett, who again showed some silky touches off the bench, will come into the reckoning to start.