One match in the No.10 jersey for the All Blacks was enough for a chorus of fans to jump on the Damian McKenzie bandwagon.

Chiefs coach Colin Cooper wasn't one of them – he's been singing the young first five-eighth's praises all year.

In his first season starting in the No.10 jersey for the Chiefs full time, the 23-year-old McKenzie has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the campaign. He has, however, also had periods of play that remind punters that he's still green to the role.

"It doesn't surprise me," Cooper said of McKenzie's recent outing for the All Blacks. "He's only going to get better, as I keep saying every time I get asked about him – just give him a chance.


"He's been the main man here. He's now showing everyone in the country how good he is...He's just working out his depth with his flatness, and that just comes with time in the saddle."

McKenzie, as well as fellow All Blacks Anton Lienert-Brown, still owed on All Blacks stand-down week in Super Rugby, but as their campaign gets back underway against the Highlanders in Fiji this weekend, the pair will both be lining up.

The Chiefs will also welcome back Tyler Ardron and Sam Cane after stints on the sidelines due to injuries.

The Hamilton-based club have three games left to play, with the Highlanders this week before back-to-back home games against the Brumbies and Hurricanes before the playoffs.

"We're very confident," Cooper said of his side heading into the business end of the season. "We believe we're going to be there (in the final) on August 4. Our whole focus is about week by week to make sure we're there.

"It's more concentrating on what we're going to bring than what the opposition's going to bring."

While a number of players return to the side this week, lock Brodie Retallick remains out with a pectoral injury, while Nathan Harris has been allowed to remain in New Zealand with his partner and their newborn child – provided his teammates stay healthy.

"I said to Nathan, if we do get a sickness in Fiji you're going to have to come."