An All Blacks centurion and one of the country's greatest midfielders will suit up in the Heartland Championship this weekend.
Ma'a Nonu will make a surprise return to New Zealand rugby for the Ngāti Porou East Coast after being named on the reserve bench for Saturday's clash against Buller in Ruatoria.
The 39-year-old is joined on the bench alongside his former Hurricanes teammates Faifili Levave and the team's coach Hosea Gear.
Gear, the former All Blacks winger who grew up in Gisborne and took over as East Coast coach this year, said he was surprised when his good mate Nonu offered to play for the side.
However, Nonu would only sign up on the condition that Gear would also join him in the team, an offer Gear said he had no choice but to take.
"I couldn't say no, so I'm quietly hoping I don't have to get out on the field. It was the only way I could get him to come here," Gear told Stuff.
"Me and Ma'a are pretty close, we've spent a lot of time together, so I asked if he was free for a catchup and if he'd like to present our jerseys, which he did.
"We got talking from that, and he offered to come through and give us a hand. At first I thought he was joking, as the boys always do, then it turned serious and I reached out to him again to see if it would work around his family commitments. Luckily for us, he's all good to go this weekend."
Nonu, who played 103 tests for the All Blacks before retiring after the 2015 World Cup win over Australia, returned home to New Zealand this year after stints overseas with San Diego in America's Major League Rugby competition and most recently with Toulon in France.
Gear said it took two weeks to secure Nonu as a signing after getting clearance and paperwork sorted with New Zealand Rugby.
Nonu's Heartland appearance on Saturday comes after All Blacks captain Sam Cane also graced the competition for King Country last weekend in his first game returning from pectoral surgery.
Buller CEO Andrew Duncan said having the likes of Nonu and Cane playing Heartland rugby was great for the competition.
"I think it just showcases the importance of our competition," Duncan told Newstalk ZB.
"It's a wonderful competition the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship. Sam Cane last weekend and then Ma'a Nonu and Hosea Gear this weekend.
"It's just a great opportunity to showcase the competition. It's a really important piece of the New Zealand rugby landscape, the Heartland Championship. Gosh it's just exciting times."
Duncan said it will also be an invaluable experience for his team to face Nonu on the weekend.
"I think it's such a wonderful opportunity, not only for Ngāti Porou East Coast but of course our players as well to get the opportunity to come up against greats of the game. Particularly against Ma'a Nonu, it'll be a wonderful experience for our guys.
"There'll be plenty of banter. There's no shortage of banter at the best of times, but throw this into the mix I think the guys will be, you know, who could put the first tackle on Ma'a. It will be great. The guys will be genuinely excited to come up against these great rugby players."
East Coast will be hoping Nonu can help the side break an eight-year, 54-game losing streak against Buller on Saturday.