With so little separating the top Kiwi sides in Super Rugby, playoff seedings will be determined by how they perform against one another.

And the Chiefs will hope that puts them in an advantageous position ahead of the final rounds, given they currently boast a peerless 3-0 record in local derbies.

Dave Rennie's men might have largely struggled to impress against offshore opposition - at least before Saturday night's thumping of the Reds. In fact, the Chiefs are the only New Zealand side to lose to an overseas team this season, the sole blemish in the Kiwi quintet's 30-1 record.

But providing there are no further slip-ups akin to their narrow loss to the Stormers in Cape Town, how much the Kiwi sides impress against the other conferences will be rendered largely irrelevant.


What will determine the final placing in the New Zealand conference are the local derbies and, in beating the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Blues in the competition's early rounds, the Chiefs have shown their mettle in the matches that matter.

Which will fill them with confidence ahead of three more derbies in their final five fixtures. As will the fact that against the Reds, the Chiefs appeared to find some attacking fluency and, more importantly, something close to full health.

Aaron Cruden missed the trip to New Plymouth, having self-reported concussion symptoms after sustaining a head knock at training on Thursday. But Rennie is confident Cruden will return for the crunch clash against the Crusaders, especially considering the first-five can recover over a bye week before heading to Fiji.

With Tawera Kerr-Barlow in exemplary form after his own week off, and with Charlie Ngatai putting in an incredibly encouraging performance following a year on the sidelines, the Chiefs backline should be as formidable as any of their compatriots in the derbies to come.

Following the Crusaders encounter, the Chiefs face a trip to Eden Park and, sandwiched between two home games against Australian opposition, will visit Wellington to face the Hurricanes.

It is a taxing stretch run but, given the Crusaders and Hurricanes also have to play each other twice, none of the front-running trio is likely to escape unharmed. And given the Highlanders have only one derby in their last five games, the fourth-placed southern side could be poised to pounce.

But the Chiefs have so far shone in all-Kiwi meetings. Continuing that trend now is crucial.