WELLINGTON - The most pivotal player in the Chiefs' charge to the Super Rugby final believes his game can still go up several notches.
Five-eighth Aaron Cruden would be a leading candidate as the competition's best player this year such has been his mix of game management, pinpoint goalkicking and game-breaking bursts on the way to Saturday's final against the Sharks in Hamilton.
He has developed to the point where some pundits believe he should supplant legendary No.10 Dan Carter in the All Blacks.
Cruden outpointed Crusaders' pivot Carter in last week's semi-final, prompting more glowing praise from Chiefs coach Dave Rennie and a comment that there was more to come from the 23-year-old.
"He's a bloody good man, he's an outstanding player but I think he can be better," Rennie said.
"He certainly is working hard on developing his kicking game and controlling a game with his boot.
"We know he can do it with ball in hand."
Cruden made his name as a brilliant running playmaker for national age group teams and his Manawatu province.
His shift north this year has coincided with a maturity and command of some of the more subtle elements of rugby.
"Probably when I first came onto the scene, my mindset was just to attack, attack, attack," Cruden said.
"Now I know the value of being able to control a game by putting the ball in the right areas.
"I'm continuing to work on that. I still feel I have a long way to go."
Cruden has forged a brilliant inside-back combination with Sonny Bill Williams but said praise for the Chiefs' resurgent season should be aimed at the tight culture created by the coaching staff.
It had made his transition from the Hurricanes easy and enjoyable.
"When you make a decision to move like that, you never know what's going to happen. But as soon as I came in, the boys were hard at work. A lot of people didn't think we'd be in the position we are now but we had a self belief right from the start and it's only got us stronger as the season's gone on."