Steelform Wanganui's aggressive hooker, Cole Baldwin, will lead the team in all facets for his 100th first-class game against Mid Canterbury in Ashburton tomorrow, not just onto the field.

Set to become the union's 13th centenarian, following on from Peter Rowe, who last season became the first man to reach that honour in 14 years, Baldwin is again promoted off the bench to take the No2 jersey and the captaincy from Roman Tutauha.

Despite their competition for the position and team leadership in recent seasons, Tutauha made it clear after last weekend's tough loss to South Canterbury that the squad would use Baldwin's milestone as motivation for their second trip south in as many games.

"He's been the pinnacle of Whanganui rugby, so we've got to do it for him as well as ourselves. He's a good man."


Co-coach Jason Hamlin, who in 2001 became the last centenarian before Rowe, acknowledged Baldwin's unwavering commitment since his debut in 2006 - having played all his games in the Heartland era where only a maximum of 10 matches a year, plus potential Ranfurly Shield challenges, are given first-class status.

If Wanganui make a final in 2017, the 34-year-old Baldwin could become the first man to play 100 Heartland Championship games alone, as well as his five Ranfurly Shield appearances.

"Guys like Cole, and Wanganui's been lucky to have them, they're the backbone of the team," said Hamlin.

"He knows what he wants and he's pretty direct in telling people about it. He's more than paid his dues, it's a honour well deserved."

Other players are also being rewarded, as Samu Kubunavanua, Cody Hemi and Nick Harding all return from the RDO Shield-winning Wanganui Development XV, along with young lock Cade Robinson, who has been promoted, and 2015 prop Kamipeli Latu - straight back in after nearly two years in England.

"Cade looks like he fits the bill for us - a blindside/lock combination, a strong ball carrier," said Hamlin.

Kubunavanua starts for the injured Simon Dibben, while Latu joins the bench as Gabriel Hakaraia steps up to the starting XV for the first time with Hamish Mellow being rested.

Dane Whale and Bruno Tuivai also step aside this week.

"[Kubunavanua]'s gone away and done all we've asked of him," said Hamlin.

"Cody just gives us a bit more flexibility, can cover the outside backs."

After 20 minutes off the bench for the Development XV, Harding will finally get his chance to rejoin Heartland rugby after being the top scorer in club rugby for two years, only to have his hamstring keep conspiring against him come the representative campaigns.

"Leading up to the Saracens [pre-season] game, he did the training camp and was just half jogging and re-tweaked it a bit," said Hamlin.

"Now is the first time he's felt confident on it. He needs the opportunity."

The continued absence of Fraser Hammond gives blindside flanker Tremaine Gilbert another chance to prove he deserves to be a key man in the pack.

Now sitting eighth on a very compacted table with their 2-2 record, Mid-Canterbury were in ominous form when they thrashed Wairarapa Bush in Masterton 60-24 last Saturday.

Joint leading Heartland try-scorer Wanganui second five Timoci Seruwalu will match up against the other joint leader, Maleli Sau. Both have five tries.

Mid-Canterbury's 2002 All Black Regan King scored a double last weekend, with the 36-year-old having come back to New Zealand after 13 years playing in Wales and France, which included in 2006 being named the best centre in the world by readers of

He joined the Southern club and helped them to the local Watters Cup title in July, and Hamlin acknowledges that, while some of the pace may have gone, the veteran's sharp guile remains.

Currently second on the table, Wanganui know the loss last week after patchy wins before it means the team have used up their lifelines as another loss could cost them a Meads Cup berth, let alone a home playoff.

"We're probably lucky, really, the other games went the way they did. Destiny's still in our hands.

"From our first game, when we were able to run amok and do whatever we wanted, we've struggled on attack.

"Everyone's pretty crystal clear on what we want to do. We've got our defence and have to get our mojo back on attack."

The team had an early 8am departure to Palmerston North to fly to Christchurch airport this morning, before an hour bus ride to Ashburton.

The potential Wanganui team is:

1. Gabriel Hakaraia ; 2. Cole Baldwin (c); 3. Viki Tofa; 4. Sam Madams; 5. Sokonaia Kalou; 6. Tremaine Gilbert; 7. Jamie Hughes; 8. Bryn Hudson; 9. Lindsay Horrocks; 10. Craig Clare; 11. Cameron Crowley; 12. Timoci Seruwalu; 13. Kaveni Dabenaise; 14. Samu Kubunavanu; 15. Jona Sawailau.
Reserves - Forwards: 16. Roman Tutauha; 17. Kamipeli Latu; 18. Cade Robinson; 19. Angus Middleton. Backs: 20. Tom Stewart; 21. Cody Hemi; 22. Nick Harding.