With the All Blacks squad set to be named on Thursday, Damian McKenzie issued a timely reminder of his abundant talents on Saturday night.

McKenzie appears locked in a battle with Jordie Barrett for the utility back spot in the 33-man squad to tackle the Lions, with the pair of young dynamos offering similar qualities to Steve Hansen and his selectors.

Based solely on this weekend's action, however, there was only one winner in that contest. McKenzie produced a dazzling display as the Chiefs attack ripped apart the Waratahs, enjoying one of his best outings in an already impressive season.

The 22-year-old has consistently exceeded the imposing personal standards set last year, regularly representing the Chiefs' best attacking weapon and leaving his coach to make a post-match plea.


"He's been in fantastic form and hopefully the All Blacks can find a spot," said Dave Rennie. "Ben Smith's the best fullback in the world, but Damian has certainly been outstanding for us all year. We'll leave that for the big men to choose."

Both McKenzie and Barrett are capable of coming off the bench and changing a match from fullback, both offer handy cover at first five and both are better goal-kickers than the man who will wear the All Blacks' No 10 jersey.

And McKenzie illustrated all of those attributes against the Waratahs. He kicked a couple of sideline conversions while landing seven-of-eight from the tee and regularly lined up at first receiver to take control of his side's point of attack.

But he was again at his most influential while running the ball from the back, making 145 metres while beating five defenders to lead Super Rugby in both categories and mark himself as perhaps the most elusive ball-carrier in the competition.

Asked whether his form has been enough to earn higher honours, though, the deferential Southlander described his performance as "OK" and chose instead to focus on next week's clash with Barrett and the Hurricanes.

"Mate, I don't know," McKenzie said of an All Blacks call. "I'll just wait and see what happens. If anything comes, I've always said it's a big bonus.

"I'm just focusing on our next game. We've got a big game down in Wellington, so it's about looking forward to that and seeing what we can improve on [Saturday's] performance."

Regardless of whether he will have the opportunity this month to add to his his two All Blacks caps - or whether he'll have to settle for a spot in the Maori All Blacks to face the Lions - McKenzie will clearly be in the international picture for years to come.


It's difficult to imagine his counter-attacking abilities becoming any more electric, but the imminent departure of Aaron Cruden will next season provide McKenzie an opportunity to play in what has always been his favoured position.

In the meantime, his ability to switch between fullback and first five has proven invaluable for the Chiefs, who will need McKenzie and Cruden to fire on Friday if they wish to edge the Hurricanes for second spot in the New Zealand conference.

"The game plan we've got allows us to jump into [first receiver] at times," McKenzie said. "We just make sure someone steps up there and directs our forwards around the ground. It's good and just gives us a bit more variety."

Damian McKenzie v Jordie Barrett
Minutes: 1040 - 856
Tries: 5 - 5
Carries: 178 - 106
Metres: 1260 - 684
Clean breaks: 24 - 13
Defenders beaten: 58 - 24