The Chiefs had a tough start but ran away with an easy win over the Cheetahs by 45-3 at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night, scoring six tries to none.
The Cheetahs have a well earned reputation as the most entertaining of all the South African teams and they enjoyed a good start to the game, probing wide for any gaps in the Chiefs defence, and dominating 86 percent territory in the opening 11 minutes.
But they had only a solitary penalty to first five Johan Goosen to show for their efforts due to solid Chiefs defence and their high error rate.
Chiefs fullback Gareth Anscombe evened the scores with a wide angled penalty after 18 minutes before the Cheetahs broke though after loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane's clever pass set alight a quick counter attack, but the key pass was knocked on with the Chiefs try line wide open.
The Chiefs finally burst into life after 23 minutes when some fine inter-passing down the left hand touchline between Anscombe, Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Tim Nanai-Williams broke down short of the line.
From the resulting ruck set up by outstanding flanker Sam Cane, the Chiefs were awarded a penalty and attacked right leading to captain Liam Messam dived over for the opening try. Anscombe's fine conversion took the Chiefs out to 10-3 after 26 minutes.
The rest of the first half was a tale of Cheetahs domination but too many mistakes kept the surprisingly flat Chiefs in front. The one highlight was the superb defensive display from All Blacks openside flanker Cane, who looks every inch the perfect replacement for the holidaying Richie McCaw.
The second half began with an immediate try to Chiefs tighthead prop Ben Afeaki after lock Brodie Retallick charged down a clearing kick by the Cheetahs. Anscombe converted brilliantly from the sideline chalk to give the Chiefs a 17-3 lead and all the early momentum
All Blacks halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow replaced the promising Augustine Pulu at halfback and Bay of Plenty's Tanerau Latimer replaced Fritz Lee to team up with his Steamers team mate Cane.
The Chiefs bombed a certain try after 55 minutes when lock Michael Fitzgerald dropped the ball with winger Tikoirotuma unmarked outside him. But no matter as the Chiefs extended their lead 10 minutes later with the best move of the match involving most of the team, that was finally finished off by Tikoirotuma off a clever Aaron Cruden pass.
Some clever trickery from the Chiefs backline then produced a thrilling try under the bar to Anscombe, who continued his faultless goalkicking display with the conversion, as the lead blew out to 31-3 with 12 minutes to play.
Replacement hooker Rhys Marshall scored a late try with his second touch of the ball before Ben Tameifuna scored the Chiefs sixth try on full time.
Chiefs 45 (Liam Messam, Ben Afeaki, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Marshall, Ben Tameifuna tries; Anscombe 6 cons, pen)
Cheetahs 3 (Johan Goosen pen)
Halftime: 10-3 Chiefs