All good things come to those who wait - just ask young Canterbury lock Dominic Bird as he prepares for tomorrow night's ITM Cup final against Auckland.
Bird took a punt on flying to Canterbury at the end of 2009 to further his rugby career and at the time the 21-year-old must have wondered if he had made the right move.
In two seasons in the Crusaders wider training group he hasn't appeared in a Super rugby match, although he played in a couple of pre-season games this year, while his provincial experience last year consisted of 10 minutes only against Manawatu.
It's been a different story this season, though, and Bird, all 112kg and 2.06m tall of him, has established himself as one of the form locks of the competition and appeared in every match for Canterbury, starting most of them.
Even though he played for the winning New Zealand under-20 team in a world championship final last year, he said tomorrow's match would be the biggest of his career.
"We've talked a lot about starting well, about coming out with a hiss and a roar and just being aware that it's going to take a full 80 or 100 [minutes] to win this," he said.
Bird said the protracted semifinal battle with Taranaki last week prepared them well for the final.
"There was a lot of footy and we were under a lot of pressure at times, which is what you need coming into an ITM final."
Bird grew up on his family's sheep and beef farm on the edge of the Hawkes Bay township of Waipukurau. As well as playing rugby, he was a keen motocross rider when he was a youngster. "I was a bit big and never put enough time into it, but I loved it. It was something I did all the time on the farm."
Talented Crusaders locks Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Chris Jack, Luke Romano and Tom Donnelly had all helped his development. He quickly rejected an offer from John Kirwan to join the Blues recently, sensing his future is in red and black.
Bird wants to keep steadily improving in all the set piece work - scrums, lineouts and kick-offs.
"They're all big and for a lock you've just got to nail your core roles."
Bird is studying environmental management and planning at Lincoln University, but admitted with his rise in rugby his studies had slowed up.
"I've just got to manage time, and I've learned a few lessons this semester especially."