The Chiefs have made the surprise call to shift Damian McKenzie to flyhalf for their Super Rugby Aotearoa clash with the Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday.
Despite starting their Super Rugby campaign with two successive losses, the Chiefs continued to back McKenzie at fullback, only shifting him to flyhalf during the last 20 minutes of their fixtures.
Now on the back of three successive wins, Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has decided to start McKenzie at flyhalf for the first time this season, in arguably their most crucial match against the defending champions.
McMillan confirmed that the change had nothing to do with injury, despite regular flyhalf Kaleb Trask missing out on the match-day 23 entirely as Bryn Gatland has been brought onto the bench. Chase Tiatia has been promoted from the bench, to take McKenzie’s place at fullback.
‘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,’ McMillan said.
‘It’s been going pretty well for us late in games, so this is the week we see if we can get the same result earlier.’
Meanwhile, the Crusaders will be without Jack Goodhue as the experienced centre has been ruled for the rest of the year with a knee-ligament injury, in what will also be a massive blow for the All Blacks.
Injury updates for Joe Moody & Jack Goodhue 🤕 Wishing the boys all the best for their recovery ❤️ pic.twitter.com/QWLthuEXMM
— Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) April 14, 2021
Chiefs – 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo,10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Subs: 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.
— Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) April 15, 2021
Photo: Getty Images