After a month's break, the Chiefs and Hurricanes return to Super Rugby action with a mouth-watering derby in Hamilton on Friday.
After a month's break for these teams, the Chiefs and Hurricanes return to Super Rugby action with a mouth-watering derby at Waikato Stadium on Friday.
Both look strong on paper following time off for the June Tests but it's the champions who, of course, come into this fixture as favourites to prevail.
Slotting back into their line-up is Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick and Ben Afeaki, while the 'Canes welcome back Conrad Smith, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Victor Vito, Jeremy Thrush, Dane Coles and Ben Franks. Samoa duo Tusi Pisi and Alapati Leiua are warming the bench.
The 'Canes are missing Andre Taylor (shoulder), Tim Bateman (knee), Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (knee), Motu Matu'u (arm) and Ardie Savea (New Zealand U20s).
It has been a disappointing season for Mark Hammett's side as they have struggled to hit the heights of 2012 when they finished on 57 points – this year they are on 39 points with three derby games remaining including this week. Put bluntly, they have gone backwards from their form of just one season ago.
The Chiefs meanwhile have maintained their title-winning swagger and even without Sonny Bill Williams, seem to have built up a squad that has shown its worth throughout the year.
An example of this is Bundee Aki, Andrew Horrell and Charlie Ngatai all going well when asked to don the number twelve shirt.
Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith it seems can do no wrong as the team sits perfectly going into the run-in, being only three points behind the Brumbies with two games in hand.
Therefore we can expect them men from Waikato to be on home soil when it comes to the knockout stages towards the end of next month.
Rennie was generous however to suggest that Friday's visitors to Hamilton are still in the competition, mathematically at least. We don't believe that the Hurricanes seriously believe that they can make up the seven points they require to oust neighbours the Crusaders or Cheetahs for a top six place.
What should occur on Friday is a fixture between two teams that will not go into their shell, which bodes well for the contest as a spectacle. But with the Chiefs possessing greater firepower and cohesion in their backline throughout the year, it's likely to be Tim Nanai-Williams and company victorious.
Prediction: Expect the hosts to show their title credentials. Chiefs by 15!
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Charlie Ngatai.
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Reggie Goodes, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Faifili Levave / Blade Thomson, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Alapati Leiua.
Date: Friday, June 28
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Waikato Stadium
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)