Chiefs Semifinal Hopes May Rest With Damian McKenzie

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 26: Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs collects the high ball during the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Chiefs and Eden Park on May 26, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The Chiefs semifinal hopes may rest with Damian McKenzie in Saturday’s do-or-die Super Rugby semifinal clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

McKenzie, 22, is currently riding the waves of his most impressive Super Rugby season yet.

‘The smiling assassin’ insists he doesn’t deliberately look for the camera just before starting his kicking routine.

The stillness, the concentration, and then a cheeky smile – that has proven to be the winning formula off the tee for McKenzie in recent times. He deserves to be the smiler that he is; because right now the 22-year old simply cannot be matched.

McKenzie is the best player in Super Rugby, and perhaps, one of the best fullbacks in World Rugby. But despite all the talk, and all the attention that’s come with it, McKenzie is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

“If everyone does their job and does it well you find that it goes a long way toward winning the game.”

While his long-term position may switch to first five, McKenzie has proven his versatility and ability to perform in both positions. Barring an average showing at No.10 for the Maori All Blacks; McKenzie has been as solid a playmaker in his alternate position as he is in his primary.

Chiefs Semifinal Hopes May Rest With Damian McKenzie 

In 2017; McKenzie leads the competition in almost every attacking statistic. That includes the key areas of defenders beaten (74) and metres run (1565). Sitting at just over 70% from the kicking tee – McKenzie’s accuracy was a big part of why the Chiefs beat the Stormers in Cape Town.

When asked if he does anything in particular in training and game prep that sets him apart from other class fullbacks in Super Rugby – McKenzie insists that the best preparation begins with himself.

“I’m a pretty relaxed sort of a guy but it’s about getting all the little things right both on and off the field.”

According to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen; McKenzie has a future in the black jersey despite getting limited opportunities so far. Many were shocked at McKenzie’s exclusion from the original All Blacks squad for the DHL Lions Series – and although he came in as late injury cover – McKenzie never got a shot in June.

“It’s always a goal to play at that next level so it was really disappointing at first but then to be called in and be in the mix during those last two matches against the Lions. Moving forward the only thing I can concentrate on is my performance.”

No Leicester Move For Damian McKenzie… Yet 

Recent reports in the UK suggested that McKenzie was in ‘advanced talks’ with Leicester about a potential move there once his contractual obligations with the Chiefs were over. McKenzie shook his head at the rumours but insisted on providing no further comment to the largely debunked reports.

“I’ve got no real answer to that other than I’m contracted here until the end of 2018.”

McKenzie will lace up the boots and play at fullback for the Chiefs in what is expected to be a wet night at AMI Stadium on Saturday. But for the Chiefs, the venue is a happy hunting ground, having one the majority of the last few encounters in the South.

“Main photo credit”

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