The Super Rugby playoffs are still two months away, but whether the Chiefs have a realistic chance of claiming the title will likely be defined by 80 minutes against the high‑flying Crusaders at the ANZ Stadium tonight.
The unbeaten Crusaders sit atop the New Zealand conference, with 50 points, and while the 9‑1 Chiefs do have a game in hand, they are eight points back.
If that deficit extends to double figures after the showdown in Suva, with four games to play it will be mighty tough for the Chiefs to claw their way back to finish as conference champs, which secures home comforts for a quarterfinal, and possibly beyond.
The Crusaders are attempting to extend their winning streak to 12 matches.
Setareki Tamanivalu, Manasa Mataele are playing for the Crusaders tonight while Michael Leitch for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs were able to sneak past the Crusaders 23‑13 in Suva last year, which means it's now four on the trot against this foe, and six of the last seven.
But for Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, that sort of psychological advantage counts for little in his eyes, and he knows how vital it is for his side to start over come the first whistle.
For the Chiefs, coming off a bye and seven straight games against overseas opposition has them fizzing for a long‑awaited local matchup.
They managed to put away the Highlanders, Blues and Hurricanes in the first three weeks of the season, and now it's key to front because it's derby time again.
On the other hand, the Crusaders are just aiming to securing the coveted top spot in the New Zealand conference.
It would also allow them to keep making the Lions sweat, their biggest threat in terms of who finishes top overall and therefore qualifies for home play‑off privileges.
Following the Fiji trip, the Crusaders will meet the Rebels in Melbourne, and the Highlanders at home.
Coach Scott Robertson says they must kick diligently, to keep Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie bottled‑up.
McKenzie's numbers are impressive; he is the best in the competition in terms of carries and metres gained, and the third‑best at beating tacklers.
Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan says this match will be brutal.
The Chiefs will host the Crusaders at 7.35 tonight at the ANZ Stadium.
Gates will be open at 4pm.
Meanwhile, the stretch of road from the junction of Queen Elizabeth Drive to the junction of Grantham Road in Suva will be closed from the next hour.
Source: stuff.coADVERTISEMENT Listen to the latest news on our 5 radio stations Legend FM, Viti FM, Radio Sargam, FM96 and Navtarang.