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Damian McKenzie shone bright in Chiefs debut

The Chiefs coaches were justly rewarded for backing young Damian McKenzie for their Super Rugby opener.

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The Chiefs could have taken a risk on a reasonably fit Andrew Horrell, or backed the slight Super Rugby experience in Marty McKenzie, but instead went with the exciting talents of the younger Damian.

All the talk has been about McKenzie since Saturday night – and rightly so.

McKenzie’s speed was remarkable, and he did all of the basic things extremely well.

His calmness under the high ball, the ability to back himself given his small size and break the line, and his clear yet not so obvious change in kicking routine are just a few signs of one common idea.

That idea being that McKenzie is a far better rugby player than what he showed during the ITM Cup last season.

Granted  on occasion McKenzie showed signs last year of the skill which got him noticed at the U-20 Rugby World Cup, but through inconsistent goal kicking and a hit and miss showing during the Mooloos run, McKenzie never really broke through in the way many thought he would.

That all changed on Saturday night, but not only that, exceeded expectation.

Not only did McKenzie play so well for a debut, he played alongside one of the biggest names in rugby – Sonny Bill Williams and did so with relative ease on both sides of the ball.

For a 19 year old, McKenzie had one of the strongest debuts a professional sportsman could ask for.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie was impressed with the bravery McKenzie showed on defense and said he was quicker on his feet than Aaron Cruden.

Cruden is expected to be back this weekend against the Brumbies.

The Chiefs can take real excitement away from Damian McKenzie’s debut, and now see themselves with three really good kicking options and one major starlet behind the front-running Cruden for the remainder of the season if all stay healthy.

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