Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Dangerous Damian McKenzie one of Super Rugby's best

Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs runs the ball during the round 11 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.
Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs runs the ball during the round 11 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.

Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara have earned the majority of the plaudits in driving the Hurricanes to their maiden Super Rugby championship, but the statistics show that little Chiefs back Damian McKenzie was one of the busiest and most dangerous backs in the competition.

The 21-year-old, who plays fullback for his franchise, reckons he weighs "80kg dripping wet", but his size is no impediment to his performances, and while his side were knocked out in the semifinal by the Hurricanes, McKenzie is looming as a crucial element to the franchise for the next few years.

Included in the All Blacks squad for the June tests against Wales, McKenzie didn't play a game, and he has been left out of the Rugby Championship squad, but appears certain to wear the black jersey in the near future - possibly on the November tour.

The keys to his success in only his second season at this level are his willingness to get involved and his slipperiness when he gets the ball.

As the below statistics show, McKenzie ran further with the ball, and more often, than any other player. He also made the most breaks and beat the most defenders. Rounding off his outstanding year is the fact he made the second highest number of offloads, behind Highlander Malakai Fekitoa.

Credit must also be given to Lions loose forward Jaco Kriel, who finished third on the list of most defenders beaten, an extraordinary achievement for a forward. The beaten finalists made breaks almost at will as they stormed into the final, but unfortunately for them they were hard to come by in Wellington on Saturday.

Three New Zealanders were among the competition's best tacklers, with the outstanding Ardie Savea taking the honours, giving the Hurricanes flanker something extra to celebrate.

Blues midfielder Piers Francis surprisingly comes out on top as among the best goalkickers for New Zealand teams. Francis started kicking for goal only late in the season, but proved more accurate than his teammate Ihaia West. The "booming boot" award goes to the Sunwolves' Riaan Viljoen, who was successful with a kick from 55.4m.

Metres
Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) 1304
Dane Haylett-Petty (Force) 1283
Ruan Combrinck (Lions) 1276

Carries
McKenzie 215
Haylett-Petty 200
Samu Kerevi (Reds) 182

Defenders beaten
McKenzie 67
Kerevi 62
Jaco Kriel (Lions) 57

Offloads
Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders) 34
McKenzie 28
James Lowe (Chiefs) 26
Nemani Nadolo (Crusaders) 26

Breaks
McKenzie 31
Combrinck 31
Johnny McNicholl (Crusaders) 31

Tackles
Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) 205
Sam Cane (Chiefs) 191
Matt Todd (Crusaders) 165

Best NZ goalkickers (more than 10 attempts)
Piers Francis (Blues) (20 attempts) 80%
Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders) (87) 72%
Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) (106) 71%
Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) (90) 71%
Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders) (93) 70%
Ihaia West (Blues) (64) 67%
Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) (21) 52%

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