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Chiefs brace for Crusaders in Suva

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Lynn McConnell     16 May 2017     Getty Images

New Zealand derbies have their own intensity in Investec Super Rugby at the moment, and that is heightened by the fact that the race is still on to secure the highest possible places in the competition to ensure home advantage through the play-offs.

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The Lions from Johannesburg had the advantage with the easier draw through the final stages while several tough games lie ahead for the Crusaders.

They had overcome the Hurricanes in the first of those in what was a typical New Zealand derby.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said it was brutal test and that was why the game had been enjoyed by so many and while there had been only one try scored everyone knew it was a better game of rugby.

It would be a big challenge for the Chiefs but the pack was salivating at the prospect of going up against a great scrum, they had a good lineout and drove well while also having what Rennie felt was probably the best defensive lineout in Super Rugby, he said.

That area was always a strength of the Crusaders and had been where they had destroyed the Hurricanes.

"If they can choke you at set-piece it goes a long way towards winning games. We'd expect them to bring that and we will have to front really well in that area," Rennie said.
"It's a big challenge but we've got a fair bit of experience up front. Kane [Hames] and Nepo [Laulala] have had cameos with the All Blacks and Nathan [Harris] and Hika [Elliott] while we've got a couple of second rowers who have worn the black jersey as well.

"It's a big step up, we've had seven non-Kiwi sides to play recently so the intensity will be much higher but we are looking forward to it," he said.

The difference in the Crusaders this year under new coach Scott Robertson was that the side had been more clinical and they had the ability to put the foot on the throat when they had teams under pressure. They had shown when winning a couple of games in the last five minutes that they had a lot of character and belief.

The Chiefs were bolstered by Aaron Cruden's recovery from concussion and Tim Nanai Williams was also available to be considered for selection this week.

Rennie was not concerned that centre Anton Lienert-Brown, who signed up with the Chiefs until 2020 yesterday, had not been as dominant as last year. He said defensively his work was right up there and he had a 'phenomenal work rate'. The Chiefs had not attacked as well as a group as they had last year and that had its effects on individuals.

"He was on fire with the All Blacks and they are such a dominant force and we're playing in a competition where you're playing all the other Kiwi sides and it's a pretty level playing field so we're happy with the way he's going. He's building and I'm sure the All Blacks aren't too concerned, they want guys ready to go in June-July as opposed to March," he said.