Damian McKenzie, the most dangerous runner in Super Rugby, looms as a key threat the Crusaders must nullify in their semifinal - the question is whether the Chiefs can get enough ball to him.

The little fullback leads most of the attacking statistics this season, including metres run with the ball, carries, and defenders beaten, although it was his goalkicking skill which helped get the Chiefs home against the Stormers in Cape Town in their quarter-final.

McKenzie's speed and footwork from the back has cut teams open all year, but the Crusaders will back their defensive structures which suffocated a Highlanders attack including All Blacks Ben Smith and Waisake Naholo in their quarter-final last weekend.

The weather conditions will again play a huge part. The Highlanders were guilty of kicking too much possession away during their 17-0 defeat at AMI Stadium and yet moving the ball safely past centre Malakai Fekitoa was extremely difficult.


The extra care taken to pass the ball meant the red and black wall was virtually in the faces of Fekitoa, Smith and Naholo when they received it, and while there is less rain expected this week, the temperatures on Saturday night will probably only be just above freezing.

That is likely to suit the Crusaders just as well. They squeezed the life out of the Hurricanes at AMI Stadium in May, nullifying Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett and Julian Savea through a rush defence aided by the dewy conditions, and will look to apply the same formula against the Chiefs.

If the Chiefs struggle to get on the front foot against the Crusaders, it could be another cold and fruitless evening for a visiting back three, but one of McKenzie's strengths is how he can create something from nothing.

It's his broken play running which could hurt Scott Robertson's team. Against the Highlanders last weekend, Robertson instructed his side to kick long and his back three to stay deep in order to be ready for the inevitable Highlanders' return.

The kick-chase will be crucial for the Crusaders in order to shut down McKenzie's time on the ball but one of the ways Dave Rennie might get McKenzie into the game more is to have him at first receiver on the other side of the breakdown to No10 Aaron Cruden.

If so, it will likely be a sign of things to come. Cruden is nearing the end of his Chiefs' tenure, as is Rennie, with new coach Colin Cooper set to play McKenzie at first-five next year

It was a position McKenzie played for the New Zealand Maori against the British & Irish Lions in Rotorua last month. Charlie Ngatai played second-five in that 32-10 victory for the visitors, who used the conditions and their rush defence to near perfection to shut out a talented opposition backline. The Crusaders will seek to do exactly the same, but McKenzie, the 22-year-old who went to secondary school in Christchurch, will have something to say about that.

Super Rugby's best attackers:
1. Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) 1565
2. James Lowe (Chiefs) 1274
3. Courtnall Skosan (Lions) 1162
1. McKenzie 223
2. Amanaki Mafi (Rebels) 196
3. Clayton Blommetjies (Cheetahs) 187
Defenders beaten:
1. McKenzie 74
2. David Havili (Crusaders) 58
3. Cheslin Kolbe (Stormers) 58