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Chiefs refuse to be tagged underdogs for semi-final

Reuters Reuters 24/07/2016 Mark Gleeson

Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden. © Chris Hyde/Getty Images Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden. The Chiefs might be the lowest seeded of the Super Rugby semi-finalists but captain Aaron Cruden insisted his side are anything but underdogs as they prepare to take on the top-ranked Hurricanes in Wellington next weekend.

"We don't consider ourselves in that light," Cruden said after a barnstorming 60-21 away win over the Stormers in Saturday's quarter-final in Cape Town set up a derby clash in the semifinal in New Zealand.

"We'll head home, get to sleep a few nights in our own beds and then go down to Wellington pretty excited about playing in a semifinal.

"Rugby fields are all the same when you get out and cross over that white line (and onto the field). We think we have every chance and hopefully Wellington will be nice to us."

To beat the Hurricanes, who finished the regular season top of the standings and are therefore guaranteed home advantage in the play-off all the way to the field, Cruden said the Chiefs had to be assertive.

"They are good on counter attack and turn over ball," the All Blacks flyhalf said. "Against the Sharks (in one of Saturday's other quarter-finals) the weather conditions weren't great but they still moved the ball and backed their skill set.

"We have to make sure we limit their opportunities and play at the right end of the field. But we expect that they will chance their arm from anywhere, even deep in their own half.

"If we are alert defensively, if we are sharp, then hopefully we will be one step ahead and we'll be the ones who apply the pressure, and not them to us."

There were many pleasing aspects for the Chiefs in the convincing win at Newlands in Saturday's quarter-final but Cruden singled out defence in spite of all the flair, running and superb handling from the Waikato team.

"Our defence against the Highlanders (in the last regulation season game) was good and we wanted to continue to build on that in the quarter-final," he said.

"We didn't sit back on our laurels once we were ahead. Hopefully we will build more on this, heading into a semifinal against a pretty good Wellington Hurricanes."

With three of the four Super Rugby semi-finalists coming from world champion New Zealand, Cruden agreed with an assertion that Kiwi rugby had never been in a better place.

"The amount of young talent coming through in New Zealand never ceases to amaze I suppose," he said.

"In our squad we have a lot of guys in their first or second year of Super Rugby and who all step up in pressure situations. It's exciting times."

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