Emerging superstar Damian McKenzie has spurned guaranteed starts as playmaker at other New Zealand Super Rugby teams to extend his stay at the Chiefs until 2018.
Arguably the hottest attacking property in the competition, the 21-year-old has added two years to his existing two-season contract.
Signing the diminutive utility back is a sizeable coup for the Chiefs, whose five-point lead atop the overall standings has been built around the brilliance of McKenzie.
Playing at fullback, he tops a number of the competition’s attacking statistics, including most tries (7) and points (120), plus most running metres (724m) and most defenders beaten (41), while he’s fourth for offloads and also clean breaks.
McKenzie revealed he had been approached by two other New Zealand teams and answered “potentially” when quizzed if they were the Blues and Crusaders.
“I had the opportunity to play 10 (five eighth) somewhere else and focus solely on that but playing 15 (fullback) at the moment, I’m really enjoying that,” he told NZ Newswire.
“There were opportunities elsewhere and it took a lot of thought but I was leaning towards the Chiefs most of the time with what they’ve done for me so far.”
The former age group star and Maori All Black said wearing No.10 is a long-term goal but he is enjoying the freedom of fullback, having played every minute of all nine games there this year.
Picking up tips from current and former All Blacks five-eighths Aaron Cruden and Stephen Donald at the Chiefs was also a bonus.
“At fullback I’ve got a licence to do what I want at times. I’m allowed to get into first receiver,” he said.
“And learning off Cruds and Beaver is pretty awesome. They’re players I looked up to when I was younger.”
McKenzie agreed a shift to the Crusaders would have held some appeal as he went to school in Christchurch and his older brother Marty is on their books. However, he wasn’t keen for the sibling rivalry that could develop over their shared desire to wear No.10.
Listed as weighing 80kg, McKenzie could become one of the lightest All Blacks selected for years if his form warrants a call-up for the home series against Wales in June.
He isn’t letting the possibility of a Test jersey play on his mind.
“You’ve always higher goals but I’m just trying to take it week by week.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”