As New Zealand welcomes their second round of Super Rugby Aotearoa, Oliver Keohane looks at two steppers, one from each match, who have the ability to completely change the flow of the games.
The Chiefs will be looking to All Black Damian McKenzie to inspire some magic and maybe just put an end to their record losing streak of nine games. Coach Clayton McMillan has made it clear that the intent is to utilise McKenzie in the flyhalf channel throughout the season, and with Bryn Gatland offering solidity at ten, McKenzie’s threat comes in his counter attack from broken play at fullback but also his snipes at number ten during certain moves, especially later in the game when the defensive line is tired susceptible to being broken by a side stepper at first receiver.
Watch McKenzie in action:
The Crusaders’ pivot is so unique in world rugby, in that he is both direct and incredibly elusive with the ball in hand. Mo’unga’s game breaking ability is in his stop and start footwork, from a fairly deep position, that often sees him feigning an inside step but instead swerving and beating the defender on the outside, then throwing a pop to a hard line runner or a looping pass outwards. By taking both the ten and twelve out the game, the entire defensive line is fractured for either his centre to break through the middle, or his outside backs to receive the ball in open space out wide. Through Mo’unga, the Crusaders will be targeting the Canes’ inside channel which sees young Garden Bachop try and fill the hole left by Beauden Barrett.
Watch Mo’unga in action: