Twenty-year-old Damian McKenzie is rapidly becoming a household name this Investec Super Rugby season. In fact, his form in the opening five rounds of the competition has put him firmly on the radar of fans and rugby commentators, with many predicting he’ll be pulling on an All Blacks jersey this year.
The exceptional form he displayed in 2015 for the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20s’ side and then his provincial team Waikato, was the first inkling he would feature regularly for the Gallagher Chiefs in 2016.
At 1.75m and 81kgs, he looks minute in comparison to the average front-rower but his fearless and assertive playing style sees him regularly cut players twice his size in half.
In addition to his rugby prowess, he’s best known for the wry smile that forms whenever he takes a kick at goal. While most kickers in the hot seat display their concentration by way of a furrowed brow, McKenzie appears to be completely immune to the pressure of a packed stadium, instead taking in the moment with a smile on his face before slotting the ball with remarkable accuracy right through the posts.
He’s been quizzed on what it is he thinks of when he lines up the ball on the tee. His answer; he’s just enjoying the moment.
He points to a few seasons back when his kicking stats were less desirable.
After working closely with sports psychologist David Galbraith, McKenzie has learned to embrace the pressure points and lean into the excitement, exhilaration and anxieties that accompany performing on such a public stage. The result? Thus far a stellar strike rate.
Gallagher Chiefs’ fans have four more opportunities to see Damian McKenzie and his team mates in the flesh for their remaining competition games at FMG Stadium Waikato. Next up – it’s a local derby like no other. There will be no love lost when northern neighbours the Blues invade Chiefs’ turf on Friday April 8, hunting for their first win over the Gallagher Chiefs since 2011.
Can the Gallagher Chiefs stretch their nine-game winning streak to 10 games? Be there to witness what promises to be an action-packed, fiercely contested game between these two New Zealand powerhouses.
Tickets are available from Stirling Sports, 0800 4 CHIEFS or online at ticketdirect.co.nz.