Big boost for ailing Crusaders as Chiefs rest McKenzie

Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs
Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs
Image: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The winless Canterbury Crusaders have received a major boost with the news that Waikato Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan will be resting All Black Damian McKenzie for this weekend's Super Rugby Pacific clash.

The Crusaders, Super Rugby champions for the last seven years, will be looking to snap the worst losing streak in the team's history at five games when they take on the second-placed Chiefs in Christchurch on Friday.

McKenzie has been in brilliant form at flyhalf for the Chiefs in the first five rounds of the competition but McMillan is obliged to rest all his All Blacks players for two matches over the regular season.

“We had always planned on Damian getting through the first four or five games before he needed a rest, as per the protocols,” McMillan told Stuff media.

“He's had a niggly knee ... it's nothing serious ... but it's just a timely reminder, instead of pushing it another week to a point where something that's minor could turn into something a little bit more serious.

“If Damian had been 100% fit, it might have been an easier decision to extend him another week, but he's not, so we won't risk him.”

With Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett now playing in Japan and ineligible for Test selection, McKenzie has a shot at finally establishing himself as New Zealand's first-choice flyhalf under new coach Scott Robertson this year.

The 28-year-old, who has played the majority of his 47 tests at fullback, has grasped the opportunity with both hands and put in five scintillating performances as pivot as well as topping the Super Rugby points-scoring standings.

McMillan said the decision to rest his best player for what in any other year would be one of the toughest games of the season for the Chiefs was unrelated to the current malaise at the Crusaders.

“It's certainly got nothing to do with the Crusaders and how they are tracking at the moment,” he added.

“That didn't even factor into our thinking, it just either had to be last week or this week.” — Reuters



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