As a lad growing up in Murchison Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby prop Ben May never dreamed about playing a Super Rugby match, let alone 100.
May, 35, will play his 100th when he starts in the tighthead jersey for the Hurricanes in their first home game of the season when they host his first Super side and defending champions, the Crusaders, at Wellington's Westpac Stadium tomorrow night. To be fair the lifestyle May had in the town of 800 people played a significant part in his ability to play 100 Super games over a 12-season period.
As a regular hunter it wasn't uncommon for May to return from expeditions in the Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes national parks with pigs and deer draped over a frame which would eventually be 1.93m tall and 119kgs in weight when it stopped developing. Those treks were just as beneficial if not better than the gym sessions his city counterparts were putting in at the same time.
"Yes those hunts and my stint in Japan have probably allowed me to keep going as long as I can," May said after the Canes training session yesterday.
The long-serving Maori All Black was referring to his three-game stint with the Munakata Sanix Blues in Japan's Top League during 2014 and '15.
May pointed out he is rapt with the manner in which he has bounced back from missing the Magpies' 2017 Mitre 10 Cup campaign with a knee injury.
"It was a pain to miss last season with the Magpies but we have got over that injury with plenty of good rehab. I've come back fitter, faster and stronger," May said.
The Nelson College product agreed there couldn't be a better game than this weekend's to celebrate his 100th.
"It's a pretty big game. They are on fire and we are not quite hitting our straps ... we have got a big task ahead of us."
May doesn't believe the travel factor - the Canes returned to the capital on Monday after playing in South Africa and Argentina over consecutive weekends - will have any influence on the hosts' display.
"All the boys are in pretty good shape. We had Monday off and have had normal training sessions since and we have a clarity run tomorrow [today]. There's nothng like a Crusaders-Hurricanes clash to inspire the best out of you."
A three-game Crusader in 2007, May played 33 games for the Chiefs from 2008-'11 and has played 63 games for the Hurricanes since 2012. He is thrilled with how fellow Magpies, former Blues first five-eighth Ihaia West and former Highlanders loosie Gareth Evans, are fitting into the Canes environment.
"Ihaia is back in the 23 this week after starting against the Bulls and Gareth has started in both of our previous games and is going from strength to strength.
"All of us Hawke's Bay boys [winger Jonah Lowe is the other Magpie in the Canes squad] are looking forward to playing in front of Magpies fans next month," May added referring to the April 6 clash against the Sharks at McLean Park.
While May will play his 100th Super Rugby game tomorrow night All Black first five-eighth Beauden Barrett will play his 100th match for the Canes. He will become the 12th player to achieve this milestone.
The others are Julian Savea, who will start on the right wing tomorrow night, Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Rodney So'oialo, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata, Tana Umaga and Victor Vito.
Barrett made his debut against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in 2011 and has scored more than 1000 points in Super Rugby. He has paired with ABs halfback TJ Perenara 81 times in Canes colours.
Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd has named an unchanged starting XV from the one used in last weekend's 34-9 win against the Jaguares. Two-game All Black hooker Asafo Aumua will make his Canes debut should he receive the call to exit the subs shelter.
Aumua completed 40 minutes of action for the Hurricanes under-20s last weekend after being sidelined with a rib injury. There could also be Hurricanes debuts for prop Marcel Renata, who has joined the squad after Alex Fidow was injured against the Jaguares, and halfback Richard Judd who has also joined the squad as injury cover.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has made two changes to his loose forward trio and one in the backline to his side used in last weekend's win against the Stormers. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis will replace Pete Samu at blindside flanker and vice captain Matt Todd returns to the openside flanker's role after recovering from a thumb injury which kept him out of the Stormers match.
This shuffle sees Billy Harmon move to the bench. In the backs Mitchell Hunt is set to start in the No 10 jersey after Richie Mo'unga fractured his jaw in the Stormers clash.
Mike Delany, who has 47 Super Rugby appearances on his CV, will provide cover on the bench.
The only other change sees hooker Ben Funnell take a spot in the subs shelter.
Teams for the 7.35pm match:
■Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Gareth Evans, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields (c), Sam Lousi, Vaea Fifita, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves.
Substitutes, forwards: Asafo Aumua, Fraser Armstrong, Marcel Renata, Michael Fatialofa, Blade Thomson.
Backs: Richard Judd, Ihaia West, Vince Aso.
■Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty (v-c), George Bridge, Mitchell Hunt, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd (v-c), Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett.
Substitutes, forwards: Ben Funnell, Chris King, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Billy Harmon.
Backs: Mitchell Drummond, Mike Delany, Manasa Mataele.