Not only are the New Zealand Super Rugby teams proving too good for anyone other than each other, but they have also started well in the crucial goalkicking stakes.

Two cases in point are Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett. The All Blacks' duo came under heat at various stages of 2016 for their inconsistent form off the tee. Cruden, despite playing all 17 games for the Chiefs, was only at 52 percent, with 11 from 21. Damian McKenzie took the lion's share of the Chiefs' kicks last season

After three rounds in 2017, both Cruden and Barrett are in fine fettle, while Cruden is making a solid case for inclusion in the Lions series ahead of Lima Sopoaga, who never really clicked into gear for the Highlanders with his general play, though he was shooting at 87 percent with 13 from 15. However, he is now facing a few weeks on the sidelines due to a hamstring tear.

The Chiefs, of course, have two reliable kicking options. McKenzie showed, with a six out of six effort in the torrential rain last Friday night, that he too is a more than capable marksman. His 71 percent last season was solid, but the top goalkickers need to be hitting in the high 70s or early 80s for that percentage to be telling.


Men like Bernard Foley and Christian Lealiifano were in that category (78 percent), not that it helped their franchises to Super Rugby glory.

Barrett has started with nine from 12 for a 75 percent return. If he can post similar or higher numbers by June, that will bode well for the Lions series in which weather may impact on the tests and therefore goalkicking will be imperative.

Cruden did not take the shots last Friday night due to a toe complaint, but he had kicked 82 percent (nine from 11) in the Chiefs' two opening New Zealand conference clashes.

Ihaia West is kicking at 75 percent, which hasn't helped his status at the Blues, who badly need more direction from their pivots. West find himself on the bench for round four.

Other kickers to be in accurate early form include Elton Jantjies of the Lions (77 percent), Fred Zeilinga of the Cheetahs (87), Patrick Lambie of the Sharks (75) and Reece Robinson of the Waratahs (85). Trumping them all is Lionel Cronje of the Kings, who has slotted all 15 of his attempts. Too bad he plays for a team that will finish in the bottom three and faces the chop. Handre Pollard of the Bulls has kicked just four from nine for 44 percent, a low return for a quality sharpshooter.

The most important kick of round three was Mitch Hunt's match-winning penalty goal for the Crusaders to edge the Reds in Brisbane. That gives him five from seven at 71 percent.