McKenzie given chance at 10 for Chiefs

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With the Crusaders hit by injuries, they have had a complete switch of their forward pack as they look to rest key players before the final stages of the competition.


Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan doesn't believe that makes the Crusaders any less of a tough opponent.


While some cornerstone players for the Crusaders would not be starting, it was well known that when Crusaders fell there were quality players to step up as replacements, he said.


The Chiefs would take some confidence from their earlier game with the Crusaders. They had been in the game until late before the score blew out. They were aware of why that happened. There had been elements of their game that were held up and they hoped to get that right on Saturday.


Putting an 80-minute performance was still the goal and being at home in front of a good crowd could be the inspiration to lift the side, he said.


McMillan said having McKenzie move to first five-eighths later in games had worked well for them so his start this week was to see if they can get the same result from earlier in the game.

"He's been outstanding and back to his best and confident in what he's doing. But I think what he's demonstrated most, is that he's bringing accuracy, and a bit of maturity, to his game.  Historically he's been a little bit of a maverick. He's toned that down and the team, and himself, are reaping the rewards.


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


"We're going to give it a crack this week, and it'll either be a raging success, or it won't be. So, we'll see what happens," he said.


"If we want to be at the business end of this competition, then you have to rotate your squad to a certain extent. We've talked a lot about cohesion, and you'll see that still in our team, there's a number of the same people out there, but each week we've given people an opportunity.


"The other thing you need to do to win the competition is be courageous," he said.


All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris is listed on the bench for the first time this year. He had been through multiple surgeries on his ankle and he was kept off the roster until he was able to play with confidence.


They opted for Lachlan Boshier's experience on the openside flank and younger brother Kaylum, who McMillan said performed well last week, would come on as a substitute.


The Chiefs take on the Blues at 7.05pm Saturday (NZT) at FMG Stadium Waikato.


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