Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said his side had room for improvement as they look to build on last year's maiden Super Rugby title.
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said his side had plenty of room for improvement as they look to build on last year's maiden Super Rugby title.
The reigning champions held off a second-half fightback to defeat the Highlanders 41-27 on Friday and launch their title defence with a convincing bonus-point win.
The Chiefs scored four tries to three, including a brace to Tim Nanai-Williams, who proved an able replacement for Sonny Bill Williams after being switched to the centres to cover for the departed rugby league convert.
Both sides showed plenty of attacking verve in a match where the lead switched six times. But the Chiefs staged a late surge to claim victory, despite missing a clutch of key players through injury.
“Our outside backs were pretty electric,” said Clarke said.
“Across the board we'd be a little bit disappointed at letting in a few tries. But we've got a hell of an exciting team and we can definitely score some points.”
The Highlanders, who finished ninth last season, were buoyed by star recruits Ma'a Nonu and Tony Woodcock. But skipper Hosea Gear said his side lacked patience as they tried to chase down the Chiefs' lead for much of the match.
“We were trying to move the ball but it just got away from us in the end,” he said.
“We probably let ourselves down just trying to force that 50-50 pass where we should have just hung onto it, but those are the lessons we'll learn.”