Dane Coles had May 2 circled on his calendar for some time.
Granted, it might have been a metaphorical calendar, but once the Hurricanes hooker knew he was going to be out of action because of the elbow injury he suffered against the Blues in Palmerston North on March 13, he had one game he wanted to return for.
His coaches, conservatively, hoped to have him back on deck by May 9 when the Hurricanes host the Sharks in the capital but Coles had other ideas and he will play from the bench against the Crusaders at Westpac Stadium in Wellington tomorrow.
"Obviously the Sharks was the target but I always said when they gave me the diagnosis that I'd come back [for] the Crusaders week," Coles said.
"So that was my goal and I put pressure on our physios and our doctors to release me and they gave me the all clear. So they did an outstanding job."
Coles described the cause of his injury as freakish. He suffered the ailment when diving for a loose ball and his arm clashed with Blues rake James Parsons.
Hyperextension was the immediate concern and further assessment found he had ripped ligaments from the bone, which could have forced him under the knife.
Such surgery would have put him out for four to six months and damaged his World Cup prospects.
But the surgeon deemed that rehabilitation would be enough and Coles said he felt confident heading into tomorrow's match.
"I've done all I can now so it's just going out and playing footy and doing what I love," Coles said.
"The New Zealand derbies are always the best ones to play. But the Crusaders are a quality side and we are in a good position at the moment so we just need to carry on that form."
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said he felt Coles would have been fit to start the game but the promising form of Motu Matu'u meant they could ease the 27-test All Black back in to the fold.
"Dane was relaxed about whether his role was going to be a start or coming off the bench," Boyd said.
Given the lack of depth at hooker across the country, Coles is arguably one of the most important All Blacks in World Cup year.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen would likely be pleased to see his prized No2 slowly working his way back to fitness rather than diving in head first.
The Hurricanes will also welcome back utility forward Blade Thomson for tomorrow's game after he had experienced lingering concussion symptoms.
Boyd said they wanted to take a cautious approach with Thomson who last played in the round six win over the Highlanders in March.
The 5-5 Crusaders are on the fringe of playoff contention but are getting to the "must win" stage of the season.
The Hurricanes, who have won eight from nine during an impressive run this year, had no intention of taking the Crusaders lightly.
"You'd be a fool to write the Crusaders off at any time and it will be a tough challenge and I don't think it'll be any different to any other years," Boyd said.
The Crusaders will be without flanker Richie McCaw after he was knocked out in last weekend's win over the Blues.
The Hurricanes beat the Crusaders in both of their matches last season.