Stransky awed by Chiefs wunderkind
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – He has been one of the hottest performers across
the conferences in the early weeks of Super Rugby 2016 … and Chiefs fullback
Damian McKenzie’s feats at the tender age of 20 have not escaped the attention
of the Springboks’ World Cup 1995 flyhalf icon Joel Stransky.
The emergence of McKenzie, an only recently-converted No 10,
in the last line of the competition leaders’ defence has earned rich eulogies
from scribes in the land of the current world champions, but Stransky weighed
in enthusiastically from further afield this week.
Speaking on the SuperSport rugby talk show “TMO”, Stransky
said the multi-skilled dimensions brought by the unusually lightweight – by
modern standards – McKenzie went a long way to explaining the Chiefs’ current
pace-setting standards; they boast 24 points from six matches and five
“He just reads the game so well,” enthused Stransky. “He
offloads perfectly, shows patience, and importantly has the vision to kick well
into space when required.
“He seems the complete player, and the other advantage is
that they have Aaron Cruden as the No 10: that means two great decision-makers
in the team.
“Both are slight, small guys (McKenzie is 1.75m and just
above 80kg – Sport24) but decision-makers and great runners too.”
An ever more apparent trademark of McKenzie, in his extra
duty of place-kicking, is his “smiling assassin” look in the immediate seconds
before he strikes the ball.
Said Stransky: “I love watching McKenzie kick for goal
because the last thing he does is that little wry smile … he sort of visualises
exactly where (he thinks) the ball is going to go. He just has real enjoyment
of what he does.”
The quirky ritual seems to work most of the time, given that
McKenzie has landed 31 of 43 pot-shots at the posts and leads the Super Rugby
“most points” category (with 108) by a runaway margin of 38 points from the
Brumbies’ Christian Lealiifano (70) and then the Lions’ Bok hopeful Elton
He also sports the most tries (seven), has beaten more
defenders (30) than anyone else, leads for carries (82) and is second for most
metres gained (463).
On the same show as Stransky, another former Bok in
midfielder Gcobani Bobo gave his appraisal of the collective Chiefs mojo at
present: “Their fitness is (a big factor) … the way their players keep
recycling, so they get into right positions and deliver the ball to the right
“The other brilliant thing about the Chiefs is the
intensity; the hard work (coach) Dave Rennie has put in. He’s empowered the
players in their skill sets.”
The Chiefs’ only defeat thus far came at home to the Lions
in the second round, which says plenty about how Johan Ackermann has developed
the Johannesburg team’s own game.
But the Waikato outfit have already whipped the Kings in
Port Elizabeth (58-24) and face just one more South African opponent in
ordinary season, the Sharks, at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth on April 29.
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