Rub the rough edges off All Black Damian McKenzie and we might have a real gem video

Damian McKenzie gets some air after scoring a try during the All Blacks' 25-24 victory over the Springboks in Cape Town.
MIKE HUTCHINGS/ REUTERS

Damian McKenzie gets some air after scoring a try during the All Blacks' 25-24 victory over the Springboks in Cape Town.

OPINION: While watching Damian McKenzie earn his crust in Cape Town there was a temptation to trade a cup of tepid tea for a flute of champagne.

Then, moments later, you had to place the champers back in the icebox and decide whether to instead take a gulp of dishwater just to teach yourself a lesson for being so over-enthusiastic in the first instance.

Because that's what it was like watching McKenzie, who started the test against the Springboks at fullback before shifting to the right wing to replace the injured Nehe Milner-Skudder, on Sunday morning.

 

You just didn't know what was going on in that head of his. Instinct is such a crucial thing for rugby players. If they are confident and prepared to back themselves, anything is possible. McKenzie clearly likes to do that.

READ MORE:
* All Blacks hang on in Cape Town
Recap: All Blacks v Springboks
* Player ratings: ABs in Cape Town
* Knowler: Mo'unga for northern tour
* Poll: Best ABs in Rugby Championship
* Cape Town test top talking points
* Coetzee: Boks on track for RWC

 
All Blacks Aaron Smith and Damian McKenzie were pretty happy after the match in Cape Town.
GETTY IMAGES

All Blacks Aaron Smith and Damian McKenzie were pretty happy after the match in Cape Town.

We saw McKenzie's instincts at work in Cape Town when he - and only he can explain what he was thinking at the time - decided to take a quick throw-in to himself to launch an attack three minutes after the halftime hooter had sounded at Newlands Stadium.

With the All Blacks clinging to a 8-3 lead, and some of his forwards running on wobbly legs as they tried not to succumb to exhaustion, it made sense for McKenzie to let the ball to stay out and allow referee Jerome Garces to call time-up for the half.

Wrong call, thought McKenzie. He was having none of that. He wanted play to continue.

All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie offloads the ball against South Africa.
GETTY IMAGES

All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie offloads the ball against South Africa.

It could have been costly; several of the big men in black with single digits on their backs looked absolutely shot. He wasn't the only one at fault, but it seemed that everyone caught the bug during the bizarre scenes that followed, as both teams ran the ball from everywhere.

Ad Feedback

As All Blacks skipper Kieran Read noted with a wry grin in his speech after fulltime: "A couple of egos on halftime didn't want to kick it out …"

Still, we shouldn't complain should we? The All Blacks won, and no-one could state they didn't get their money's worth from watching a match that promised little and delivered plenty.

Damian McKenzie carries the ball into contact in Cape Town.
GETTY IMAGES

Damian McKenzie carries the ball into contact in Cape Town.

So back to McKenzie. How good could he be? Very good. Yes, he makes mistakes but almost anything seems possible as he uses his ability to hop from foot to foot to beat tacklers and his speed to hare into gaps.

Of course it was McKenzie, by now operating on the right wing so David Havili could operate at fullback, who scored the crucial try in the 70th minute. Havili beat two tacklers, and fed McKenzie who just touched the flame to the gunpowder in his boots when blasting outside Francois Louw to run about 48m to score.

The good thing about the Chiefs and Waikato representative is that he is always looking for work.

REUTERS MIKE HUTCHINGS/ REUTERS MIKE HUTCHINGS/ REUTERS MIKE HUTCHINGS/ REUTERS REUTERS MIKE HUTCHINGS/ REUTERS MIKE HUTCHINGS/ REUTERS MIKE HUTCHINGS/ REUTERS

All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane celebrates as he scores a try against South Africa.

All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams attracts plenty of attention with ball in hand.

All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty looks for the offload in Cape Town.

All Blacks first five-eighth Beauden Barrett finds a gap in the Springboks' defence.

All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie dots down in Cape Town.

All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams on the burst in Cape Town.

Springboks captain Eben Etzebeth takes a lineout ball.

All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie loses control of the ball in the tackle.

1  of  8
« Previous « Previous Next » Next »

On a couple of occasions he jumped into first receiver on both sides of the ruck, he took several kick-off receipts and not only did he make a try saving tackle on Springboks halfback Ross Cronje in the 22nd minute - he also bounced to his feet and stole the ball.

McKenzie wasn't quite as prominent on attack as he was in the first spell, even though he scored his try. It wasn't for the lack of trying. He came off his wing to take an inside pass and make a break, but lost the ball, and later he also spilled a transfer by Ryan Crotty.

The All Blacks selectors say they want to see McKenzie at first five-eighth at some point, to allow him to get his hands on the ball more.

Given Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Jordie Barrett are unavailable, they could resist the urge to fast-track that plan. We are already seeing how dangerous McKenzie can be when running the pill back from the deep.

Rub some of those rough edges off and we might have something to really rave about.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback