Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick is preparing for a big rugby "challenge" over the next two months which includes five Super Rugby matches against New Zealand opposition.
The remaining five rounds of the regular Super Rugby season have the Chiefs playing the Hurricanes and Crusaders twice and Retallick is also likely to be involved in the All Blacks' three-test series against France.
The 21-year-old 2.04-metre second rower is likely to be playing alongside some of his All Black team mates one week and then a week or two later playing against them.
"It is probably going to be a real challenge, to be fair," Retallick told Fairfax NZ News.
Retallick is positive about the challenge ahead as he says that he believes he is in better physical shape than this time last year.
"We're over halfway through the season and the body's getting a wee bit sore but nothing compared to last year and I'm in pretty good shape . . ."
Retallick says that the Chiefs are now a team that has been targeted instead of a team classed as underdogs last year so they will have to be clever ahead of their games against the Hurricanes and Crusaders.
Retallick says that as they play Super Rugby matches either side of the June internationals and then finish with a match against the Blues they will have to vary their tactics.
"It's probably something we didn't have to do last year and I'm not sure if it's happened before but it will be interesting to see how it pans out."
The NZ Super Rugby Conference derby matches should open up the standings as they are currently close with the Chiefs leading the Blues by three points and the Blues leading the Crusaders by six points.
The Hurricanes are still within touching distance as they are 11 points behind the Chiefs.
However the Chiefs and the Hurricanes have a bye in hand so they are both gauranteed four more points each.
"I think we've probably got to focus on these next two weeks coming into the June break and if we can get two good wins there we'll be sitting pretty well at the top there," Retallick said.
"With the bye coming in the week before the three-week break we're going to have a month off and I think we've just got to be smart about what we do during that big break and make sure we still keep fit but come back fresh to finish those three games off and hopefully have a run in to the playoffs."
Retallick says that he is not only happy with his form and fitness but says that he believes the Chiefs are finally starting to gel as a team.
"I think everyone is getting a lot clearer on what we need to do and where we need to be.
"The coaches have set some good targets for where we need to get to in the next few weeks if we want to be in the running for the competition, because in the last few weeks we probably haven't quite been there.
"I think everyone is pretty clear and it's just the expectation of the players now that we make that benchmark."
Retallick said that he was happy with the Chiefs scrum but not so happy with the line out as the forwards were not all on the same page against the Force last weekend.
"There are a few cloudy issues there and it's something we need to work on, especially coming into the games against these New Zealand sides, but it's definitely got the potential to be right up there if we get it right," he said.