Hopefully there will be more fuss made about Sam Whitelock's 100th cap next weekend than there was about his first.

No one has sneaked into the All Blacks with such invisibility. History doesn't actually have a record of Whitelock arriving in the All Blacks as he wasn't picked in the initial squad to play Ireland and Wales in June 2010.

There was no big moment for Whitelock before he won his first cap. There was no photo opportunity, no chance for media to ask his parents where they were when they heard and how they felt about another of their sons - big brother George had been capped the year before - making the All Blacks.

Instead, Whitelock was a footnote - a one line addition to say that he had joined the squad as injury cover for veteran lock Tom Donnelly.


It was only when he came off the bench in the first test of 2010 and scored two tries against Ireland that everyone actually realised he was in the All Blacks.

It was a peculiar state of affairs that he was celebrated after the fact so to speak: that he'd snuck in the back door only for everyone to realise that in the midst of the All Blacks was this 21-year-old lock with a bit of potential.

At that stage, only the All Blacks coaches really knew how much potential. Steve Hansen, who was at that time the All Blacks assistant coach, quietly said to keep an eye on Whitelock as he was going to be something special once he had a few caps behind him and a bit more heft on a beanpole frame that was only carrying 108kg.

It was an astute prediction as eight years on and Whitelock is not only on the verge of winning his 100th cap, he's captained the All Blacks four times, is probably the skipper-elect post 2019 and has an undeniable claim to be considered one of the best locks to ever play for New Zealand.

The understated introduction to test football is incongruous with the career he has enjoyed and the player he has become, but is fitting with the sort of person he is.

Whitelock always appeared to be suitably embarrassed to have scored two tries on debut.

That's not the sort of thing a lock does and he presumably worried that he'd cast entirely the wrong impression.

He'd played his rookie Super Rugby campaign that year alongside Brad Thorn at the Crusaders and the raspy-voiced veteran would have passed on a few thoughts about general dos and don'ts and expectations.

Sam Whitelock: a traditionalist in the modern game. Photo / Photosport
Sam Whitelock: a traditionalist in the modern game. Photo / Photosport

Sensible hair cut, black boots, hard work, scrummaging, cleaning out and winning lineout ball would all have been on the approved list. Scoring tries and/or becoming renowned for scoring tries would have been warned against.

However Whitelock played on debut, he can be rest assured that it hasn't been the game on which opinions have been formed.

Those two tries are 40 per cent of the total he's scored in tests and the Blues are more likely to be crowned Super Rugby champions than Whitelock is to be branded as flamboyant, showy or flighty.

His success has been built on his relentless desire to improve and that desire to keep working was as much as anything else, the reason Hansen predicted great things for Whitelock back in 2010.

He could sense there was a fire in Whitelock. A fire that would see the big lock respond in all the right ways to overcome all the inevitable challenges that would lie between him and greatness.

In 2012 Whitelock was dropped midway through the Rugby Championship.

Hansen felt Whitelock had become one-paced, passive rather than aggressive. It stung Whitelock to lose his place and have the world know why, but when he was put back in the team two tests later, his performance in South Africa was dynamic and explosive.

Whitelock is not a sulker or hindered by any sense of entitlement and that's why he's been able to put 14kg on since his debut.

That in itself is the best proof of his work ethic - that increase has come about due to literally thousands of hours in the gym and dedication to a nutrition plan.

That size he's developed, he's used to improve all his core offerings. He's the best in the world at receiving kick offs. He'd have to be one of the best lineout poachers and that hiccup in 2012 has driven him to be a better ball carrier.

He is the ultra modern athlete applying himself in the most traditional way and from being a footnote who no one really knew was there, Whitelock has become one of the most respected, trusted and admired players of the modern age.

It's fitting that he'll make history in Sydney as if there is one nation that has felt the full brunt of Whitelock's force it is Australia.

The difference between the All Blacks and Wallabies for much of the last decade has been in their respective tight fives and the Wallabies have craved a lock of Whitelock's calibre.

So many times over the last eight years it has been the superior grunt work and ball skills of Whitelock and his fellow lock Brodie Retallick that have stood out as the winning factor.

The Wallabies have never had a similar rock - never had an equally powerful and skilled athlete providing both stability and continuity in the same way as Whitelock.