BNZ Crusaders and All Blacks lock, Sam Whitelock will become New Zealand’s 43rd Investec Super Rugby centurion when he takes the field against the Rebels in Christchurch tomorrow night.
He will lead the BNZ Crusaders team out onto AMI Stadium, both as the latest Crusaders centurion, and as captain of the team.
Whitelock, who has been an integral part of the Crusaders squad since his debut in 2010 has become a stalwart for othe side. He impressed All Black selectors enough to also make his debut for the national side in 2010, scoring two tries in his first match against Ireland in New Plymouth.
Sam is one of four Whitelock brothers to have represented the Crusaders, and his cousin Ben Funnell is also a current member of the squad. The Whitelock brothers and Funnell all moved south from Palmerston North to attend University in Canterbury and went on to play for the provincial side as well as the Crusaders.
Whitelock said reaching the milestone in Christchurch will be a memorable moment in his rugby career: “When you look at the calibre of players who have reached 100 matches for the Crusaders, it’s a huge honour to be a part of that group. This is a special team and I feel really lucky to have played as many games for them as I have. To be able to bring up my 100th at home is awesome too. We know our fans are right behind us and that’s really important as we get down to the business end of the competition.”
Whitelock will be presented with a special New Zealand Rugby greenstone mere to mark the occasion following the club’s Round 16 match against the Rebels.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew acknowledged Whitelock’s immense contribution to each of the teams he has represented.
“Sam has been regarded as one of the best locks in international rugby for a number of years now. He maintains a commanding presence in the line-out, is impressive around the park, and has developed as a leader within both the Crusaders and All Blacks environments. On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, we congratulate him on his pending milestone,” Tew said.
Head Coach Todd Blackadder said Whitelock’s contribution was important both on and off the rugby field: “Sam has been an important member of this team for a number of years. His work rate is immense and he certainly makes his presence felt every time he takes the field. His experience and leadership within the side is extremely valuable and the dedication he shows to improving his game sets an example to his team mates. The boys will want to celebrate his 100th game with the performance he deserves and I know it will be a proud moment for Sam and his family.”
Crusaders Chief Executive Hamish Riach said: “We have been incredibly fortunate to have Sam playing for the BNZ Crusaders for the last 99 games. He is one of the world’s best players but more than that, he is humble, incredibly hard-working, a real leader in this group, and just an outstanding young man. It is a pleasure and an honour to have him in the Crusaders environment and we hope that he has many more games left in him yet.”