Keven Mealamu will become the first player to reach the remarkable milestone of 150 games for the Blues when he runs out to face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.
The talismanic hooker has already racked up 160 Super Rugby appearances including his season with the Chiefs in 2000, but will play his 150th game for the Blues against the Red and Blacks.
The All Blacks centurion is only two matches away from equalling the record held by Nathan Sharpe for the most Super Rugby appearances (162), and is second only to Colin Meads in first class games after playing his 350th match against the Western Force on Saturday.
“He’s such an important part of the team,” Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said.
“He’s our matai and what we stand for. He’s been around for 150 games but I think he’ll leave a huge legacy when he does decide to move on. It’s a special moment for him and his family – 150 games for one franchise is incredible and hopefully we can help him celebrate that with a win.”
In the only change to the starting XV, Charles Piutau returns from injury to start on the left wing in place of George Moala.
“He’s good enough, he’s been injured but he’s back fit and he’s done all his contact and return to play stuff. He’s an All Black and an important member of our team and we just want to get him out there.
“We’ve decided to put him on the left wing with the littlest pressure on him for the high ball catch. He probably won’t last the whole football game and George Moala’s been playing really well so it’s just a matter of sharing that up and he’s ready to go so it’s exciting.”
Halfback Piri Weepu has been ruled out of Saturday night’s match after a scan yesterday revealed a screw in the ankle he broke in 2010 has become loose.
The Blues have not beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch since 2004 and must secure a win if they are to have any chance of making the playoffs.
“We’ve been playing sudden death rugby most of the year so we’re used to the pressure,” Kirwan said.
“We’ve got to keep the energy and excitement that we’ve had in the last couple of outings so if we can do that we’ll be fine.”
The Blues team to face the Crusaders at AMI Stadium on Saturday night (kick-off 7.35pm) is:
15. Lolagi Visinia
14. Frank Halai
13. Pita Ahki
12. Ma’a Nonu
11. Charles Piutau
10. Ihaia West
9. Bryn Hall
8. Jerome Kaino
7. Luke Braid (C)
6. Steven Luatua
5. Tom Donnelly
4. Patrick Tuipulotu
3. Charlie Faumuina
2. Keven Mealamu
1. Tony Woodcock
16. James Parsons
17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
18. Sam Prattley
19. Hayden Triggs
20. Peter Saili
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Francis Saili
23. George Moala