They've tried for six years but the Blues have yet to beat the Highlanders under the roof in Dunedin.

For veteran hooker James Parsons, who will bring up his 100th game for the Blues on Saturday in the deep south, the waiting is a familiar experience.

The 32-year-old, part of Harbour's recovery in the Mitre 10 Cup and a man who is craving success for the Blues like few others, is nothing if not patient.

Parsons had to persevere for something like 10 games as Keven Mealamu's back-up on the reserves bench before he made his Super Rugby debut in Dunedin in 2012. That's a lot of running up and down sidelines in a tracksuit in order to make yourself noticed.


But, as the Blues target their second win over the Highlanders this season after their thriller at Eden Park last month, Parsons now joins an exclusive club including Mealamu, Jerome Kaino, Tony Woodcock, Ali Williams and John Afoa.

"I'm pretty proud to have that stickability I suppose," Parsons said. "It's not something you set out for. You're just grabbing on to the contract when you start and you're striving to make the starting XV … but obviously when you get into the 90s you get pretty excited.

"To do it with both Harbour and the Blues is something I'm really proud of."

The Blues are also excited about their opportunity at Forsyth Barr Stadium against a side which have endured some rotten luck this season and are last in the New Zealand conference.

Coach Leon MacDonald has named an unchanged backline and has made only one change to the pack – prop Sione Mafileo starting instead of Ofa Tuungafasi – and he feels the dry ball and associated quick pace of the game will suit a side on track for a playoffs position this season. The Blues are in sixth and have a bye next weekend but will face a torrid examination by the Highlanders.

Blues' James Parsons. Photo / Getty
Blues' James Parsons. Photo / Getty

MacDonald is also well aware the Blues could be in a similar position to Aaron Mauger's team, who have two wins in eight games. The Blues have four – their streak broken last weekend by the Chiefs in Hamilton.

"It could have been any of the New Zealand teams probably, apart from the Crusaders," MacDonald said. "They've had a lot of close losses and have been in every game. I've got a huge amount of respect for them. We just scraped past them last time … we understand they're pretty desperate. All the teams are at this time of year and we are as well."

The Blues owe themselves a good performance after their narrow defeat at Waikato Stadium, but will be determined to honour Parsons, too. The 32-year-old former skipper who has played two tests for the All Blacks is a loyal bloke – he had offers from overseas but has re-committed to the franchise for another two years at least and is a man who deserves respect.


His experience has been and still is critical to a relatively young side.

"Super Rugby is getting younger and younger … we're contracting guys who are 19 or 20 so to have 30-year-olds that have played 100 games … it's critical to have that balance," said MacDonald.

Mealamu, a long way out in front on the Blues honours board with 164 games, also paid credit to Parsons, the man he made wait for so long.

"It is so great to see JP earn his 100th game for the Blues," Mealamu said. "He is a professional in every sense, an awesome teammate and a great man as well. This is so well deserved for such a true Blues man."

The Blues team to play the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm:

15. Melani Nanai, 14. Caleb Clarke, 13. TJ Faiane, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Otere Black, 9. Jonathan Ruru; 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Dalton Papalii, 6. Tom Robinson, 5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 3. Sione Mafileo, 2. James Parsons, 1. Karl Tu'inukuafe.

Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Alex Hodgman, 18. Ofa Tuungafasi, 19. Josh Goodhue, 20. Jed Brown, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. Matt Duffie.

Highlanders: 15. Ben Smith ©, 14. Matt Faddes, 13. Patelesio Tomkinson, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 11. Tevita Li, 10. Josh Ioane, 9. Kayne Hammington, 8. Elliot Dixon, 7. James Lentjies, 6. Shannon Frizell, 5. Tom Franklin, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 2. Liam Coltman, 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Ayden Johnstone, 18. Siate Tokolahi, 19. Josh Dickson, 20. Luke Whitelock, 21. Aaron Smith, 22. Bryn Gatland, 23. Thomas Umaga-Jensen.

Blues all-time leading appearances:

Keven Mealamu 164
Jerome Kaino 139
Tony Woodcock 137
Ali Williams 102
John Afoa 101
James Parsons 99
Charlie Faumuina 99