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Damian McKenzie labels young All Blacks hopeful a 'serious threat'

By Ned Lester
Cortez Ratima of the Chiefs is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

There’s a significant opportunity at halfback in 2024 for All Blacks hopefuls and no shortage of budding talent fighting for the honour of selection under new national coach Scott Robertson. Perhaps leading that charge amongst the uncapped youngsters is the Chiefs’ Cortez Ratima.

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The 23-year-old had been biding his time while under the mentorship – and shadow – of All Black Brad Weber since joining the Chiefs in 2022. But, with Weber’s departure for the bright lights and big contracts of the Top 14, Ratima has earned himself a promotion.

The starting spot wasn’t a given despite Ratima’s status as Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan’s preferred impact halfback in 2023, as fellow young gun Xavier Roe Returned from injury in time to be at full fitness for the 2024 campaign.

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Roe was even named to start in the Chiefs’ opening two games of the 2024 season before Ratima landed his first crack in the No. 9 jersey in round three’s loss to the Reds.

But with an exceptional pass accuracy rating and immense work rate on both sides of the ball, Ratima has solidified himself as the team’s premier halfback, and perhaps one of New Zealand’s.

The skillset of the All Blacks XV talent has impressed Chiefs teammate Damian McKenzie.

“Cortez is playing some great rugby, and I think we saw that last year as well when he got most of his opportunities off the bench behind Webby (Brad Weber),” McKenzie told SENZ’s The Run Home.

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“But he’s playing really well and he’s just growing in his stride every week. I think the thing with ‘Tez is he’s got an array of skills; defensively he’s really good and on attack, he’s a serious threat for us.

“I guess for ‘Tez, he’s in a position where he’s got nothing to lose, he just puts everything out there and I love the way he’s playing; he’s backing himself and it’s great to play outside him and get some great ball when I need it.

“He’s playing great, he’s a great kid, a hard worker, got his head on his shoulders.”

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The aforementioned Roe is joined by three-time All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi in keeping Ratima honest and maintaining pressure on his form as the starting halfback.

McKenzie added he hopes to see at least one of his teammates in a black jersey in the very near future.

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“Obviously, we’re pretty fortunate with the guys behind him as well, who are competing for the same position with Xavier (Roe) and Triple T (Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi). We’re very fortunate in that position.

“Hopefully, further down the track those boys get rewarded for the good seasons they’ve had.”

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D
Diarmid 9 hours ago
Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

The guy had just beasted himself in a scrum and the blood hadn't yet returned to his head when he was pushed into a team mate. He took his weight off his left foot precisely at the moment he was shoved and dropped to the floor when seemingly trying to avoid stepping on Hyron Andrews’ foot. I don't think he was trying to milk a penalty, I think he was knackered but still switched on enough to avoid planting 120kgs on the dorsum of his second row’s foot. To effectively “police” such incidents with a (noble) view to eradicating play acting in rugby, yet more video would need to be reviewed in real time, which is not in the interest of the game as a sporting spectacle. I would far rather see Farrell penalised for interfering with the refereeing of the game. Perhaps he was right to be frustrated, he was much closer to the action than the only camera angle I've seen, however his vocal objection to Rodd’s falling over doesn't legitimately fall into the captain's role as the mouthpiece of his team - he should have kept his frustration to himself, that's one of the pillars of rugby union. I appreciate that he was within his rights to communicate with the referee as captain but he didn't do this, he moaned and attempted to sway the decision by directing his complaint to the player rather than the ref. Rugby needs to look closely at the message it wants to send to young players and amateur grassroots rugby. The best way to do this would be to apply the laws as they are written and edit them where the written laws no longer apply. If this means deleting laws such as ‘the put in to the scrum must be straight”, so be it. Likewise, if it is no longer necessary to respect the referee’s decision without questioning it or pre-emptively attempting to sway it (including by diving or by shouting and gesticulating) then this behaviour should be embraced (and commercialised). Otherwise any reference to respecting the referee should be deleted from the laws. You have to start somewhere to maintain the values of rugby and the best place to start would be giving a penalty and a warning against the offending player, followed by a yellow card the next time. People like Farrell would rapidly learn to keep quiet and let their skills do the talking.

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