ONCE THE shock had subsided Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby centre Jonah Lowe realised the significance of the opportunity.
"I was pretty shocked when Danny [Magpies assistant coach Lee] told me. I knew my time would come and I thought I would be on the bench ... and then he said I'm starting. I mean this is one of the biggest teams," Lowe said, referring to tonight's fourth round ITM Cup clash against unbeaten Premiership leaders Canterbury in Christchurch.
The 19-year-old replaces the injured Richard Buckman and he will be marking unwanted All Black Ryan Crotty in his ITM Cup debut.
"It should be a good test and I'm sure the boys will look after me," the 2014 New Zealand Secondary Schools rep said.
Crotty will be a huge step up from the previous blokes Lowe has marked in his three-game first-class career.
"I've done a bit of homework on Canterbury and I've seen how they 'd' up. They stand man-on and Crotty likes to rush up a lot. I'll link up with Izzy [fullback Israel Dagg] when that happens.
"We've got a good game plan and we're pretty confident," Lowe said.
A younger brother of Magpies centurion and former Maori All Black and Hurricanes loosie Karl Lowe, he won't be short of motivational ammunition for tonight. Canterbury coach Scott Robertson is the head coach of the New Zealand under-20 team and making the Baby Blacks team for next year's World Cup in England is Lowe's long-term goal.
A polished performance will go a long way to enhancing his chances.
"It's also Dad's birthday so hopefully I can put on a good display for him," Lowe said, referring to his father Derek.
Tonight's match will be Lowe's second as a midfield partner for second five-eighth Andrew Horrell, who will be playing his 100th first-class game.
"Andrew is really good. He talks a lot and guides me around the field."
Lowe's clubmate, hooker Jorian Tangaere, will make his first ITM Cup starting XV appearance in the absence of the injured Ash Dixon and Ricky Riccitelli. Lowe is thrilled he will have the opportunity to run out alongside his Clive captain.
"I've had two games for the under-19s in the past month. I'm fresh and ready to go ... I can't wait. Hopefully I do enough to warrant selection for another shield defence," Lowe said before yesterday's captain's run.
The promotion of the Clive pair is one of several changes made to the Magpies starting XV used in last weekend's Ranfurly Shield defence against North Harbour. Lock Sanaila Waqa also makes his cup starting XV debut. He replaces Mark Abbott, who shifts to blindside flanker replacing Tony Lamborn, who shifts to the openside role replacing Tom Stanley.
Should Lamborn maintain his barnstorming form against another unwanted All Black, Matt Todd, it will be another major step towards Super selection. The other change to the backline sees vice-captain Chris Eaton replace Ellery Wilson at halfback.
Changes to the subs bench see Mikey Sosene-Feagai replace his Saracens teammate Jorian Tangaere. It will be Sosene-Feagai's debut if he gets game time and this will also be the case for loosie Kaleb Sweet who replaces Trent Boswell-Wakefield who will be attending a wedding.
Wilson replaces Eaton on the pine and Crusader Robbie Fruean replaces Mason Emerson. Should Fruean take the field at AMI Stadium it will be his first cup outing of the season and in terms of insurance policies for Lowe they don't come much better.
If the Magpies upset the Cantabs, and this is their best opportunity since the 23-all draw in 2010, it will be the Bay's first win against Canterbury since 1982.
CANTERBURY: Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl, Ryan Crotty, Rob Thompson, Tulolo Tulolo, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Luke Whitelock (c), Matt Todd, Reed Prinsep, Dominic Bird, Mitchell Dunshea, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Joe Moody.
Substitutes, forwards: Ged Robinson, Alex Hodgman, Siate Tokolahi, Ben Matwijow, Jed Brown. Backs: Jack Stratton, Nathaniel Apa, Marshall Suckling.
HAWKE'S BAY: Israel Dagg, Ryan Tongia, Jonah Lowe, Andrew Horrell, Shannan Chase, Ihaia West, Chris Eaton, Brendon O'Connor (c), Tony Lamborn, Mark Abbott, Sanaila Waqa, Michael Allardice, Jarvy Aoake, Jorian Tangaere, Brendon Edmonds.
Substitutes, forwards: Mike Sosene-Feagai, Tolu Fahamokioa, Mark Braidwood, Tom Stanley, Kaleb Sweet. Backs: Ellery Wilson, Billy Ropiha, Robbie Fruean.