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Leon MacDonald's performance in Canterbury's win over Bay of Plenty would not have told the national selectors anything new.

The converted fullback did most things well in Canterbury's Ranfurly Shield defence in Christchurch, making two significant line breaks, defending well and kicking accurately enough.

"I didn't feel too out of place," MacDonald said, after his first game for Canterbury since the 2001 NPC final.

"It was quite fast at times, so I felt a bit stuffed but overall I didn't feel too lost out there."

Goalkicking should still hold the key to who plays at first five-eighths for New Zealand against the Springboks in Dunedin on Saturday.

While North Harbour's Luke McAlister was given those duties against Wellington on Friday - slotting three conversions and a penalty - MacDonald had only one chance.

Instead, fullback Ben Blair nailed a perfect seven from seven, until MacDonald slotted a late sideline conversion.

MacDonald acknowledged there would be plenty of pressure on whoever started at first five-eighths against the Springboks in the absence of the injured Dan Carter.

"I'm always keen to play," he said.

"It will be a big week and obviously a big step up from this game, especially with the way the South Africans defend, the size of their pack and being a night game in Dunedin, which makes passing a bit more difficult.

"It's a pretty tough assignment for a number 10. I feel like that if I had a bit more work this week, I would be a bit more comfortable and prepared to take it on."

MacDonald described Canterbury's effort yesterday as a "pretty rough performance" and was unhappy with several aspects of his own game.

After making two impressive busts in the first half, the chances were lost because of poor finishing.

"In hindsight I probably should have gone myself," he said.

"It was a little bit of communication, I was getting some calls from players and was trying to find them but couldn't see them. I was a bit disappointed with myself to throw the ball away like that."

Restarts will also be crucial against South Africa and MacDonald was rusty in that phase, with one kick going out on the full and a clearing kick sliding off the boot.

Canterbury took an age to hit their straps and it was not until the final quarter when they scored three converted tries - two when Bay of Plenty captain Wayne Ormond was in the sinbin - that the game was put beyond the challengers' reach.

Despite spending nearly all of the first half in Bay of Plenty territory, Canterbury led only 10-3 after butchering a host of scoring opportunities.

Having been pushed out one place to accommodate MacDonald, second five-eighths Cameron McIntyre was one of Canterbury's best backs with his sure handling and probing darts.

The same could be said for halfback Jamie Nutbrown, who should have taken some satisfaction out of his duel with Kevin Senio.

Nutbrown had the advantage of playing behind a better pack, but his confidence is growing and his dabs around the fringes keep Bay of Plenty wary.