Crockett sets new benchmark
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Crusaders and All Black front row stalwart Wyatt Crockett will set the Super Rugby appearance record when he runs out against the Sunwolves in Christchurch on Friday.
Crockett's 176th Super Rugby appearance surpasses Keven Mealamu's record of 175 set in 2015.
It adds to his growing list of milestones which include being the most capped Crusader in history, holding the most Super Rugby caps for the same team, and having the world record for the most consecutive Test wins.
The 34-year-old prop launched his Super Rugby career with the Crusaders in 2006.
He has amassed 73 caps for Canterbury at domestic, provincial level and 58 All Blacks caps since his international debut against Italy in Christchurch in 2009.
He was a member of the New Zealand sides that won the Under-19 World Cup in Italy in 2002 and he also featured consecutively in the Junior All Blacks teams of 2006 and 2007.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew acknowledged Crockett's milestone.
"Wyatt is a very proud Crusader, having played all his Super Rugby for the team and his provincial rugby for Canterbury," Tew said.
"This is a significant achievement for him and his family.
"Wyatt personifies all that is great about our game. He is the ultimate team man and is totally professional in all that he does, on and off the field. He has remained committed to New Zealand Rugby and his loyalty to team and country is an inspiration.
"He's one of the game's good guys and this record couldn't be held by a better person."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson acknowledged Crockett's massive contribution to the franchise.
"Crocky is the epitome of what we describe around here as a 'Crusaders man'," Robertson said.
"Values like loyalty, team first, integrity and work ethic are central to what we ask of our players, and these are all qualities that come as second nature to Wyatt.
"It is entirely appropriate that we are celebrating him becoming the most capped Super Rugby player ever, because you simply would not find a player who shows more commitment, dependability and passion for his team than Wyatt Crockett."
Crockett himself is approaching the milestone in a modest fashion and said for him it is a great opportunity to say thanks to those who have helped him represent the team he loves for the last 175 games.
"I wouldn't be here celebrating this milestone if it wasn't for my incredibly supportive family and friends, or the coaches, team management and teammates who have made it possible," Crockett said.
"It continues to be as much of an honour every time I pull on the Crusaders jersey as it was the first time.
"As a kid growing up in Nelson and Golden Bay I was a huge Crusaders fan, I flew my flag on the embankment at 'T' Park, listened to the theme song before my First XV games and dreamed of one day becoming a Crusader, so I would like to say a huge thank you to all of those who have encouraged, coached, supported or helped in any way to keep living my dream."
Super Rugby appearance record (as of 12 April 2017):
Wyatt Crockett 175 (still playing)
Keven Mealamu 175
Stephen Moore 171 (still playing)
Nathan Sharpe 162
Ma'a Nonu 160
Liam Messam 151 (still playing)
George Smith 149 (still playing)
Tatafu Poloto-Nau 147 (still playing)
* Meanwhile the Crusaders coach, Robertson, made a raft of changes to the side that will play a historic first match against the Sunwolves.
It is the first time the Sunwolves will play in New Zealand.
Just five players in the matchday 23 remain in the same position from the team that beat the Waratahs a fortnight ago.
Captain Sam Whitelock and vice-captain Matt Todd retain their spots at lock and loose forward; Mitchell Drummond starts again at scrumhalf; while utility backs David Havili and Marty McKenzie will again wear the No.15 and No.22 jerseys respectively.
Kieran Read will make his first appearance of the 2017 season, having recovered from wrist surgery to take the No.8 spot.
Flyhalf Richie Mo'unga also returns for the first time since round one, when he fractured a bone in his hand.
Two other players returning from recent injury are Jack Goodhue, who will start at centre, and Seta Tamanivalu who will play on the opposite wing to his nephew Manasa Mataele for the first time.
Two Tasman players are set to debut off the bench for the Crusaders this weekend - Andrew Makalio at hooker and Quinten Strange at lock.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Whetu Douglas, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 George Bridge.
Date: Friday, April 14
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.35 (16.35 Japan time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)