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Talented Chiefs are the ones to beat this year

They exude the look of champions each time they take to the field.

It is far too early to pick a winner of this year’s Super Rugby championship, but Friday’s result in Wellington already has fans asking the inevitable question: “who is going to beat the Chiefs this year?”

The 26-18 win over the Hurricanes in Waikato as South Africans sat down to catch a piece of the action during a Friday morning tea break gave rise to the thought that, even though the third round has still to be completed on Saturday, the Chiefs are a talented, motivated and determined side. In short, they exude the look of champions each time they take to the field.

There can be no argument over the pedigree of the sides who fought out the battle of North Island heavyweights – the Chiefs boast 318 capped internationals among their playing personnel, the Hurricanes 197.

There can also be little doubt about the psychological effect an early victory over the reigning Super Rugby titleholders by the Chiefs, champions in 2012 and 2013, will have in upping the momentum of a side already playing at a frenetic pace and with clinical aggression.

Neither would the after-effect of overcoming a team with All Black wonder boy Beauden Barrett as the inspirational lynchpin at flyhalf have on the way other sides in the competition approach a meeting with the Chiefs.

Certainly the significance would, on the face of it, mean considerably more than the 41-26 beating handed out to the Blues in round two or the important 24-15 victory over the Highlanders eked out at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin in their series opener.

This country’s major hope are the Lions, who landed up the 20-3 runners-up in last season’s final to the Hurricanes in Wellington. If there’s a South African team that has embraced the All Black style, it’s the Lions. They will do well to study the Chiefs this season.

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