Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Sam Whitelock could be an All Black great

Sam Whitelock in action for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty
Sam Whitelock in action for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty

Travelling back from Fiji after the Crusaders v Chiefs match there, I sat on the plane in front of Sam Whitelock's parents, Braeden and Caroline.

In talking to them, I discovered that Sam was about to play his 100th match for the Crusaders. It comes tomorrow, when he leads his team out against the Rebels at AMI Stadium, in the absence of regular skipper Kieran Read. Braeden and Caroline will be there.

It got me thinking about what an incredible achievement it is for Sam to celebrate at the age of 27 and with hopefully some of his best rugby years ahead of him.

It doesn't feel like he's been around that long and he has shown a remarkable resilience to notch that many games given the position he is in and how he plays.

He must be considered one of the best locks in the world but he often flies under the radar due to his skill and efficiency.

He scored a spectacular try from 40m out last year at AMI Stadium, and can run like a back, but in general you don't see him in that capacity. What people probably need to do to see what he does is just watch him in games. You'll see how much he works in lineouts, scrums, kick-offs and on defence. You don't often see him drop the ball when it's kicked to him or in a lineout. He's so secure in that department.

He often lines up as first receiver and often distributes to props and backs. He has a skillset as a lock that Northern Hemisphere forwards players would just about die for.

He is arguably one of the best locks we've produced and is still very young. He has a lot of rugby ahead of him and could go on to be one of the greatest to play for the All Blacks. With 75 caps behind him, he is gaining on Ian Jones (79 tests) as our most capped lock. Just ahead of Sam is Ali Williams, who played 77.

He's one of those players who, when you see his name on the team sheet, you feel secure - you know he's going to play his heart out and with intelligence every time he takes the field.

He's crucial to the success of the Crusaders and All Blacks, and I hope he gets a performance from the Crusaders, and crowd attendance, that recognises the quality of the man.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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