Super Rugby Aotearoa: Chiefs coach raves over 'outstanding' Damian McKenzie

The Chiefs are backing Damian McKenzie to shine in his return to the No.10 jersey for Saturday's Super Rugby Aotearoa clash against the table-topping Crusaders in Hamilton.

Despite predominantly wearing the No.15 jersey in 2021, McKenzie has been utilised by the Chiefs at first-five to close out games, with his versatile playmaking ability a luxury for coach Clayton McMillan.

But that will change on Saturday, as McKenzie will wear the No.10 jersey from the outset, with Chase Tiatia installed at fullback, as the Chiefs look to inflict a second defeat of the season on the competition-leading Crusaders.

"It's always been an option available to us," coach McMillan says of McKenzie's switch. "It's been going pretty well for us late in games, so this is the week we see if it can get the same result earlier.

"We've always known that Damo has the potential to go up to 10 and Chase has done some really good things for us at fullback. We're not going to sit back and die wondering.

"It'll either be a raging success or it won't be. We'll see what happens."

After a knee injury brought a premature end to McKenzie's 2019 season, he showed glimpses of his abilities last year.

But now back to full fitness and full confidence, 2021 sees McKenzie playing to his full potential, McMillan adds.

"He's been outstanding, he's really back to his best. He's really confident in what he's doing, but I think what he's demonstrated most is that he's bringing a bit of maturity and accuracy to his game.

"Historically, being a little bit of a maverick, he seems to have toned that down, and the team and himself are reaping the rewards.

"We'll just encourage him to play his own game, but within the confines of what the team wants to achieve. With all of our players, we've encouraged them to be themselves and play to their strengths, and he's been doing that."

Chiefs: 1-Aidan Ross, 2-Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3-Angus Ta'avao, 4-Tupou Vaa'i, 5-Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 6-Mitchell Brown, 7-Lachlan Boshier, 8-Luke Jacobson, 9-Brad Weber (c), 10-Damian McKenzie, 11-Etene Nanai-Seturo, 12-Alex Nankivell, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 14-Jonah Lowe, 15-Chase Tiatia

Reserves: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Ollie Norris, 18-Sione Mafileo, 19-Pita Gus Sowakula, 20-Kaylum Boshier, 21-Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22-Bryn Gatland, 23-Sean Wainui

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