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How Crusaders plan to shut down Chiefs’ “world-class” weapon


The Crusaders are just one day away from their most important clash of Super Rugby Pacific 2023 and the message to the players is clear: shut down Damian McKenzie.

Not only are valuable points on the line but also bragging rights and All Blacks positions as the reigning champions take on the competition frontrunners at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The Chiefs have the edge heading into Saturday night with their perfect season record and confidence from their Round 1 win over the Crusaders, but Scott Robertson’s men will not go down without a fight.

However, assistant coach Scott Hansen knows that one player may hold all the cards for their rivals, and that man is five-eighth McKenzie.

Since returning from Japan, McKenzie has paraded his sublime attacking prowess and kicking game to help the Chiefs to their 8-0 record, Hansen saying shutting down his time and space with the ball will be imperative to securing a win.

“We’ve acknowledged the great talent that D-Mac’s got, he really has returned from his time at Suntory back into the game here (in great form),” Hansen told SENZ Mornings.

“He’s shown a lot of growth around his role as a 10, so we know that he’s a threat not only with ball in hand but he’s very brave with his kicking game.

“We felt in the first game (that) he found a lot of backfield around us on his kicking game, so how we can limit that will be important.

“Then obviously how we come and shut down time and space on D-Mac.

“He’s a very, very talented player (so) just as much as that, (it is also) how we influence people around him.”

While the Chiefs have numerous attacking weapons and a formidable forward pack, Hansen reiterated that shutting down McKenzie will be the difference between victory and defeat on Saturday night.

“The most important thing around limiting talent is (to) take away that time and space,” he added.

“But just as important (is) how he gets the ball and what kind of quality he gets.

“We understand he’s world-class and the challenge to us is to cut down that time and space.”

A win on Saturday would take the Crusaders’ record 7-2 while a loss would see them slip further in their chances of finishing atop the regular season ladder and securing home playoffs.

The highly anticipated clash takes place at FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:05pm (NZST).

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