As a likely 100th test cap looms for All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock in the Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Sydney on Saturday, halfback TJ Perenara has quipped about how much he "hated him".

If selected, Whitelock will become the eighth New Zealander to the mark, joining Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Ma'a Nonu and Mils Muliaina.

In contrast, Perenara debuted in 2014 and has 45 caps. His early rugby dealings with the 29-year-old lock were frustrating.

"I grew up playing a lot of my footy against him, and I hated him.


"On the field I thought, man, I hate this dude, but after getting into the [All Blacks] environment I realised his work ethic, love for the game and ability to flick a switch to a killer mindset were something you wanted on your team.

"Every time I passed he would clear me out and hold me on the ground, but he wouldn't react. He does the same in training. It's a process. If it's his job to take out the No.9, he takes out the No.9."

All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane agreed Whitelock's attitude helped bolster the team.

"His leadership has the biggest impact. He leads by example rather than voice."

Respect flowed everywhere at today's press conference.

Perenara pinpointed Will Genia as a player for the All Blacks to keep tabs on, especially around the fringes.

"Will's been one of the better attacking nines in world rugby for some time.

"His ability to spot a hole and punish teams when given opportunities is second-to-none. We need to look at the reads he's looking for, and not give him those.

"The more he gets going, the better their team looks… and makes their game harder to contain."


If Perenara's defence is as strong as his belief the All Blacks must earn back the Bledisloe Cup, the Wallabies will struggle to score tries on Saturday.

When asked about their hold on the silverware since 2003, and whether the pressure was on "you guys not to lose it", he said those weren't the words they'd use.

"The trophy's no-one's. Neither team owns it at this point in time."

Perenara also stifled questions down the blindside about the role of the haka, the All Blacks' Richie Mo'unga-Beauden Barrett first-five debate, and his critique of Wallabies fullback Israel Folau's anti-gay comments earlier this year.

Then Ioane got in on the act. He confirmed his contract talks would not be a distraction ahead of the test.

"No, my agent will probably be the one under the pump."