Steve Hansen can rest easy. Ryan Crotty, the nation's sole fit, specialist, top-ranked No12, guarantees he will not miss tomorrow morning's early flight to Johannesburg.

"I won't be missing that flight to Africa, don't worry about that," said the Cantabrian, minutes after emerging unscathed, at least physically, from Canterbury's stunning defeat at the hands of North Harbour in Albany on Wednesday night.

Crotty played 80 minutes but, after a fine start, in which his charge-down led to a try after 20 seconds, he settled into a distribution role.

It was his first rugby since fracturing a cheekbone in the Eden Park Bledisloe last month, and he pronounced himself fit, if not fully match-fit.

Advertisement

"The lungs are certainly working overtime. But it's good to get the cobwebs out before heading over to the high veldt," he said.

Malakai Fekitoa is likely to start at second five for the All Blacks in La Plata on Sunday, but Crotty must be a good chance of starting against the Springboks in Johannesburg the next weekend.

"I hope so. If Mala starts, I'm sure he'll get some valuable game time under his belt. If I get the opportunity to start, I'll do everything I can to play my arse off."

The alarm will be set for his 5am assembly at Auckland Airport.

Crotty appeared to be playing within himself against North Harbour, unlike the opposition, who charged into their work with fierce commitment and dominated more than 60 minutes of the match, resulting in a 29-24 victory.

"We got in a hole at 14-0 down and a lot of people would have been writing us off, but the 22 weathered the storm and believed," said North Harbour captain Bryn Hall. "We had to flush that first 10 minutes."

His side's David-like stance in not backing down to provincial rugby's Goliath was exemplified when he and towering Canterbury lock Dominic Bird stood toe-to-toe at one point.

"We talked about having some mongrel. We wanted to get them off their game and flustered them," said Hall.

There is no time to rest on their laurels, with Hawkes Bay coming to Albany tomorrow night anxious to prove this upset win was a mere fluke.

Auckland coach Paul Feeney has made only one injury-forced change for tonight's match against Taranaki in New Plymouth. Joe Edwards comes in for Blake Gibson in the No6 jersey.