Elliot Dixon's first appearance this season coincided with Southland's maiden win of the campaign.
The Stags tonight recovered from a rough start to topple Bay of Plenty in Invercargill, moving above fellow strugglers Northland at the bottom of the Mitre 10 Cup.
But, with respect to the Championship wooden spoon race, the performance of Dixon was of much more interest. The All Black was last spied on a rugby field when the Highlanders' Super Rugby season ended at the semifinal stage in July and, as a date with Argentina loomed closer, an 80-minute run at Rugby Park would have been invaluable.
Dixon started at openside flanker for the Stags before shifting to No 8. But it will surely be on the blindside where he next features, with Jerome Kaino's injury paving the way for an All Blacks start in Buenos Aires.
The loose forward was typically industrious for a team he joined earlier in the day, making a few formidable charges and completing a couple of aggressive tackles. Dixon even grabbed a try as Southland came from behind to snatch victory, though halfback Jimmy Cowan was doing his best to claim the plaudits after the pair appeared to simultaneously ground the ball.
It was an unlikely win for the home side after what had transpired earlier, as Bay of Plenty enjoyed far more opportunities but were left to rue their inaccuracy from the tee.
The Steamers piled on the pressure in the opening spell, earning the game's first through Aidan Ross after a good low drive from a lineout. Seizing on errors and ill-discipline from their opponents, the visitors kept Southland pegged inside their own 22 and eventually crossed for a second try through Joe Tupe.
But for all their ascendancy, Bay of Plenty led by only 10 at the break, as Kelly Haimona and Dan Hollinshead combined to miss four shots at goal and leave 10 points on the field. And the miscues soon proved costly as the Stags roared into the contest in the second spell.
First it was James Schrader, with the midfielder the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce to score an opportunistic try, and then it was Dixon, putting his side ahead for the first time to head to South America on a winning note.
Southland 20 (J. Schrader, E. Dixon tries; W. Hawera 2 pens, 2 cons)
Bay of Plenty 16 (A. Ross, J. Tupe tries; K. Haimona pen, D. Hollinshead pen)