Loose forward Steven Luatua will become the 30th player in the history for the Blues to record 50 caps when he leads the team on to the field against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
That is an impressive record for Luatua who is just 24 and a regular in the back three since his debut against the Lions in 2012.
It is a mark he would have reached last season until sidelined with a shoulder injury that required surgery and long term rehabilitation that also ruled him out of World Cup contention.
The 1.96m, 115kg loosie has remarkable skills to match his imposing frame, and he is keen to make his mark this year.
With skipper Jerome Kaino at No 6, Luatua has focussed on specialising at No 8.
“When you’ve got the best six in the world you leave him where he is,” Luatua told Fairfax Media. “I’m more than happy to play eight. Game time is game time. I’d prefer to play six but next preference is eight. They’re similar roles just a lot more responsibility.”
Luatua entered the Super Rugby Championship as a replacement mid-season in a 25-3 win over the Lions in Auckland in May 2012. He impressed sufficiently to get his first start the following week in a big loss to the Crusaders, but he would play three more games as a starter that season.
The first try came in the 32-9 win over the Force in Auckland while in his final game that season – a 30-16 victory over the Brumbies in Canberra – he had his first start at lock.
Luatua started 13 times in the 2013 season that included two tries and his first start at No 8 in the narrow loss to the Bulls at Eden Park.
He played in all 16 games in the 2014 season with a solitary try and managed 12 games last year until his season-ending shoulder injury against the Bulls in the 23-15 win over the Bulls at Eden Park.
The MAGs Old Boy enjoyed two IRB junior world championship titles with the NZ U20 team in 2010 and 2011. Two years later, the same year as his Super Rugby debut, he was selected for the All Blacks where he played 14 times over the next two years.
Luatua is the sixth highest capped in Super Rugby among the 2016 Blues line-up.