Cory Jane has been a favourite at the Cake Tin. Past tense? Present tense? The jury may still be out after a motley year with the Hurricanes, a season of player revolts, departures and general unease.
The utility fullback admitted he had not helped his All Black cause with some patchy work and growing disgruntlement.
But with an international reprieve, he can feel the "smart-arse" edge to his nature and rugby returning. They are good signs and ones he hopes to build on tomorrow.
He, Andrew Hore and Ma'a Nonu are three Hurricanes who did not fit into Mark Hammett's new regime but are back in black on their home track.
Those thoughts bring a wry smile and plenty of chatter from Jane, although he is not about to go into the nitty-gritty of the franchise troubles.
He accepts much of the blame for his form slump, the "woe is me" attitude he could not shake and the spiral into sloppy play.
But selection as a standby player in an extended All Black squad, now selection on the right wing tomorrow has been the right sporting elixir for the 28-year-old.
He is perky despite surgery on the nasty ring finger dislocation on his left hand. He has the medical okay, has sorted out a splint and tested the digit on defence and under the high ball.
No probs, he says, he's ready to start in the revamped jersey the All Blacks will unveil tomorrow.
"I got the stitches out last week. It felt like my ring finger was touching my little finger at one stage. It was not sore because it was a cold day and I carried on."
Jane pondered whether a warrior or soldier would have carried on playing in similar circumstances but decided he was more of a field marshall type who would not have ventured on to the battlefield too much.
He had a splint made to guard the knuckle and give him the flexibility he needs to complete his range of rugby tasks.
"It was a weird accident but now it is okay," he said. "It has not been a problem, I wouldn't play otherwise."
It had been very difficult to admit he was not fit for the test against Fiji and turn down the chance of another All Blacks appearance.
But his finger was not ready, it needed more time to settle.
Sitiveni Sivivatu played instead and was on fire. But with a few backs on the injured list, Jane has the chance tomorrow to deliver his "pick me" audition on his home track.
He was unsure whether it would be his last chance, feeling there would be more to play out in this season.
"I am just going to go out there and enjoy it, it has not been a great six months for whatever reason," he said.
"But now my head is right I can't wait to play - good, bad or average, I am excited to play rugby again.
"It was not good all year with everything going on. I didn't think about rugby and I did not want to play rugby at all.
"Everything seemed to cave in on me with the Hurricanes, personal stuff, the media and stuff like that. I couldn't be bothered playing, but now I am back in this environment with the coaches and the boys round you, it is great."
So where did all his self-doubt and recovery come from?
At the end of the Super 15 season Jane thought about what got him to the top in rugby, what he enjoyed about the game and told himself not to worry about all the side issues - "I even used to worry in a gym session.
"So I went back and asked myself what did I do to sidestep, fend, take the high ball - all the things I did to get me to the top."
He pledged to be more fun for his kids, to start getting the enjoyment back in his life.
"Now I have my focus on being at the World Cup and doing all I can to be there.
"I tell myself not to overplay things. That is easy in this team, in a sense that if everyone does their job then all you have to worry about is doing yours.
"When I was with the Hurricanes and playing badly and trying to help others it just made it worse, whereas here everyone just does their job."
With the All Blacks it was a case of showing a little bit of x-factor or making something happen.
His game had come together at training.
"Excuse my language, but being that little smart arse who teased the boys and being cheeky, it is starting to come back, which is a good sign."
His focus was on tomorrow, the Springboks and his opposite Lwazi Mvovo, who was very quick..
"They don't use him the way we would - they kick and then hope their wings run and knock the ball back and then applaud them for doing a good job.
"We expect South Africa to try to put us under pressure with the kick, but if they do not do that well then our counter attack is pretty good and we are looking to punish them.
"They like to run hard, try to smash and bully us, they are physical and like having big cleanouts. We know that is going to happen."
The All Blacks' concentration had to be on their tasks. They had run some of the rust out at Carisbrook and needed to pick up on their detail.
His mind was now uncluttered. Once he got away from the Hurricanes and rugby for a time, he shaped up.
"I stopped being an idiot and worrying about things that happened, I grew up and stopped trying to have fights with certain media ...
"I have woken up a bit from stuff like that which was pulling me down.
"I trained too hard and put too much pressure on myself pre-season.
"I went away from having fun on the field. I would get grumpy and yell at refs and stupid things like that which I have never done.
"That was the start of it. In the first game of the year against the Highlanders I slammed the ref and that started the slide.
"I put too much pressure on myself instead of going out there and enjoying myself.
"Because at the end of the day you play the game because you enjoy it."By Wynne Gray Email Wynne