The Chiefs’ capitulation against the mightily impressive Highlanders produced more evidence why Damian McKenzie got it wrong turning down the Blues. He should seriously consider a u-turn, writes Chris Rattue for NZherald.
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As amazing as he has been in the No 15 jersey, McKenzie is not a fullback. For starters, he’s too small.
The Highlanders were tactically and physically supreme at Waikato Stadium and look ready to mount a resolute defence of their title. It was a stirring performance from the southerners.
McKenzie had his moments, but was not secure with the ball and struggled against imposing opponents who swarmed all over the disjointed Chiefs.
McKenzie is one of the most amazing prospects in New Zealand rugby, but he is not a fullback, even at this point in his young career. At the end of Saturday night’s match, the little Southlander was trying to produce miracles and it wasn’t working in a depleted Chiefs outfit which has lost its mojo.
It’s also frightening watching such a little man make extraordinary leaps forward to take opposition bombs – one day, a landing will not go well. The Highlanders certainly saw McKenzie as a potential weak point, sending bombing raids his way early.
His defence was found wanting a couple of times. He is very brave, but that won’t always compensate for a lack of bulk. Risking his little body and large spirit getting dented is silly, when this should not be his job.
Steve Hansen, Grant Fox and Ian Foster, who were in the stands, will have noted how Waisake Naholo – who was hit by McKenzie about four metres from the line – steamrolled through the fullback. The returning Naholo was in a brilliant mood, but a bigger fullback would have made the powerful right wing at least work harder for the try than McKenzie could.
The Blues were the most perfect fit for McKenzie, where he could also hone his goalkicking rather than being part of a confusing tag-team with Aaron Cruden which won’t help either of them. Being handed the odd long-range shot is not the way to build his confidence and rhythm.
Yes, the Chiefs deal is signed. But New Zealand Rugby runs the show here, and sports contracts can be broken.