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Sam Whitelock set to play 350th First Class Match

Sam Whitelock is playing his 350th First Class game this weekend. But it won’t be a walk in the park for the veteran – it’s the Chiefs at home in Hamilton and they’re on an eight-game streak.  


As a leader and a senior player in the franchise, he’s been a staple on the field in red and black since 2008, equally omnipresent in the All Blacks jersey. 


Born in October 1988, Whitelock made his debut for Canterbury against Wellington in the 2008 Air New Zealand Cup season and went on to make 22 appearances for the region. 


He debuted for the Crusaders against the Highlanders in the 2010 Super 14 season and has since earned 176 caps for the franchise. Only Wyatt Crockett has more with 203. 


He debuted for the All Blacks in 2010 against Ireland, coming off the bench for Brad Thorn. He scored two tries on debut and played 10 tests in his first year. He’s played 143 tests for the All Blacks – only Richie McCaw has played more – and was selected in three Rugby World Cup sides. 


Whitelock takes the field against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday in Round 10 of Super Rugby Pacific. Speaking to the media on Friday at Rugby before flying north, Whitelock reflected on a long career. 


“The game has definitely evolved and changed massively in my time,” Whitelock said. 


Questioned about his tenure regarding the rest of the team, the 34 year old referenced the cyclical nature of professional sport. 


“When I first started, Brad Thorn had been playing professional sport for 18 or 19 years, and I was 20 or 21,” he said. 

“There are some guys here now that are making the NZ Under 20s and playing full Super Rugby games and will be around for a very long time and they’ll play a massive number of games for whatever teams they decide to play for.” 


He remembered his early days at Rugby Park under the tutelage of the likes of Isaac Ross, Chris Jack, Brad Thorn and Ross Filipo. 


“I had these guys there who played for the All Blacks, or had played for the All Blacks, and I had an opportunity to look at what they did well and learn from them.” 


Scott Robertson, current Crusaders Head Coach and soon-to-be All Blacks Head Coach, said Whitelock was “a man of resilience and true professionalism”. 


“Every game matters to him – there’s not a lot between his top performance and his bottom performance, he’s so consistent,” Robertson said. 


“He still wins all our transitions at training, he runs around like a 19 year old, and the standards that he keeps are what a Crusader is all about. 


“Sam has a great ability to connect with everyone, from an academy player coming through to senior players, he’s always connecting always finding what’s needed for this week, and even for the next week or two. 


“He’s a great check for me, a special man. He’s got a great eye and he’s a step ahead in so many areas, and that’s what makes him world-class.”