Ma’a Nonu, the dreadlocked bulldozer in the New Zealand midfield, plays his 100th test against Tonga in the Pool C match on Friday.
The 33-year-old has been one of the most recognisable members of the All Blacks since he established himself in the team in 2008 and already holds the record of most starts in the All Blacks number 12 jersey with 75 caps, as well as being the sixth most capped player for the team.
Nonu puts the reason for his longevity firmly on his relationship with his team-mates, particularly captain Richie McCaw.
“It’s something I didn’t think would happen. In terms of playing my first test I didn’t think I’d go far, but, looking back, it hasn’t been easy, it’s really been a lot of hard work – and a lot of fun tmes,“ he said.
“I look up to a few players that are still playing in the side, Richie McCaw is one of them. He’s a bloke that just keeps striving for the best.
“He’s the best rugby player that’s played the game and is still playing at the top of his game. Being a part of that and watching him train, watching him play, just inspires me more.
“Similar to Dan Carter as well. We played together first in 2003 and just playing alongside those guys inspires me to keep going.”
The feeling among his team-mates is mutual.
“I’m really impressed with Ma’a and the career he’s had,” said fly-half Carter. “To have played a lot of rugby alongside him and to see his growth has been amazing.
“Early on in his career when he was in and out of the All Blacks would have been tough for him but he’s been a huge part of this side and really established himself in the side since 2008.
“That’s where he’s really grown in the past four or five years; he has really matured into a world-leading player and his professionalism off the field has been something I’ve been really impressed with. He’s a great player to play alongside.”
Watch the game on the big screen at E-Street Cafe
The All Black vs Tonga game kicks off at 9 pm tonight and will be broadcast on the big screens at E-Street Cafe at Fountains Mall.
E-Street is offering a buy one burger – get one free special and there will be a guess the score competition with lots of cool prizes.
To book a table, phone 042 293 0095