McKenzie eager to go to Auckland
The prize of the Ranfurly Shield makes Friday night important enough for Marty McKenzie but just for good measure how about adding a certain crunch audition to it as well.
McKenzie is likely to line up at first five-eighth for Southland in their all important national provincial championship game against Counties in Pukekohe which doubles as a Ranfurly Shield challenge.
The 21-year-old started the provincial season at fullback, was shifted to the wing, and spent some time on the bench before now making the first five-eighth role his own.
It will please John Kirwan in Auckland, with the Blues coach viewing McKenzie as a pivot option for the 2014 Super Rugby season with the fullback quota looking like it is already full.
The Blues already had the exciting Charles Piutau on the roster and have added former NRL star Benji Marshall to the mix with him also viewed as a fullback option.
One of those McKenzie will have to scrap with for the Blues No 10 jersey is Baden Kerr who on Friday night will stand opposite McKenzie as the Counties first five-eighth.
"It will be a good wee matchup, won't it?," McKenzie told The Southland Times with an obvious sense of excitement.
They are two different types of playmakers. McKenzie's strength probably centres on his running game and ability to off-load in plenty of traffic while Kerr's strengths are probably more traditional in regard to his kicking game.
McKenzie is nursing an ankle injury which he picked up in the win over Otago and he was touch and go to start against Hawke's Bay last Thursday night in Invercargill.
The Stags management and McKenzie had tossed up the idea of missing the Hawke's Bay to rest the ankle for the Counties fixture but it was decided he could get through the game.
He will take little part in training this week to ensure the ankle injury can be in the best possible state on Friday night.
He feels the more game time he gets in the No 10 jersey the more comfortable he feels and he wants to continue that momentum.
"It's gradually improving. With more time I have in the saddle I'm getting more confident with what I'm doing."
McKenzie has also enjoyed having Scott Eade - who has converted from first five-eighth to halfback - providing him with the ball.
"It's quite good because Scotty knows where the 10s want it. With Scotty playing at nine he's getting involved a lot more and it's giving him heaps of confidence, especially when he went to 10 against Otago."
The Woodlands first five-eighth isn't new to Ranfurly Shield rugby. He was used off the bench against North Harbour in the last minute shield defence win in Invercargill.
"The intensity will be right up. I'm sure it'll be a step up from what the boys have experienced this season."
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