Tawera Kerr-Barlow looks to pass during the Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders. Photo: Getty Images
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow is imploring his side to produce one more in-your-face defensive display to secure a maiden Super Rugby title.
Victory in Saturday's final against the Sharks in Hamilton could well be determined by the battle of the gain line, something the Chiefs decisively won in their semi-final upset of the Crusaders.
One of the most physical halfbacks in the professional game, Kerr-Barlow holds a rare quality for a No.9 in that he helps set the defensive tone for his team.
He was one of several Chiefs players who threw the Crusaders off their clinical methods with an aggressive, relentless approach to defence.
"And it wasn't the first 20 - it was the whole 80 minutes," Kerr-Barlow told NZ Newswire.
"Right at the end, the boys defended magnificently. We held our composure and forced a mistake out of them.
"It happens because everyone's talking and, when everyone's too tired to talk, someone else is talking.
"The more voice out there, the more intensity you have."
Victorian-born and Darwin-raised, Kerr-Barlow shifted to Hamilton in his early teens and has risen quickly through the Waikato ranks.
This year, he has largely kept 13-Test halfback Brendon Leonard on the reserve bench while climbing to fringe All Blacks status himself.
The 21-year-old said higher honours were far from his mind this week, assigning himself the role of keeping his forwards focused on the task of being physical against the impressive Sharks pack.
"I'll know how we're going to go in the first five minutes.
"All year, we've made dominant tackles. It's been a feature for us apart from in the last couple of round-robin games (losses to the Crusaders and Hurricanes).
"We can't get carried away. We've got a final to play - there's no room to let up."