Another proud servant of Wanganui rugby will have his 100th first class match in Gisborne on Saturday, but this one will most definitely be staying on the sidelines.

Steelform Wanganui manager Chris Back will become the latest member of both the playing and support group to have been involved with the team for 100 first class games, with Poverty Bay representing his 94th Mitre 10 Heartland Championship match, along with six Ranfurly Shield challenges.

'Backy' became the team manager in the 2008 season, and although Wanganui's remarkable consistency to make the post-season playoffs every year means over 100 matches have already been played since then, he has missed one game per season due to work conferences, therefore finally becoming a managerial centenarian on Saturday.

Starting in the days when Wanganui would have to travel halfway around the North and South islands for away games, such as busing from Christchurch to Westport, Back's sharp organisational skills and careful planning have been a key component in the team's success - having won six Meads Cups and one Lochore Cup during his tenure.


Trips often turn up the unexpected, such as last weekend in Greymouth when Wanganui captain Campbell Hart was ruled out with an infected knee after being taken to see a doctor, following the plane flight to Hokitika.

Back joked he nearly emulated Horowhenua-Kapiti's chief executive Corey Kennett, who last Saturday came off the bench at 47-years-old for his team after a player pulled out in Ruatoria and there was no time to fly in a replacement.

"I've sat on the bench a few times for Wanganui.

"Between me, Softy and Burglar, it was a toss up on who was going to strip. I tried the jersey on," Back said of the rest of the Wanganui coaching staff.

"The boys have been joking this week I should strip and get a run on the wing for one minute."

Back said there have only been a few last moment hiccups or surprises during his time as manager – such as when popular loose forward Darren Munro was left behind at Palmerston North Airport because he ducked off to the toilet when the bus was being loaded for the trip home.

"We've had the odd flight change and cancellation, but we've just rolled with it."

He puts this smooth running down to the excellent efforts of the multiple WRFU chief executives and coaching staff he has worked with, having been the constant through several regime changes.

Another source of pride was watching future great players first emerge with Wanganui – at the recent Ranfurly Shield game in Hawera, 21-test All Black Waisake Naholo wrapped Back up in a big tackle/hug before having a catchup since their time together in the 2009 Wanganui team.

Back has seen other professional stars like Michael Fitzgerald (Chiefs) and Stephen Perofeta (Blues) come and go.

"You can sort of spot them pretty young, the ones that have got that talent and get that start in Wanganui.

"You know you're getting old when there's sons of guys you played with who are now playing."

As well as Wanganui, Back served as manager of the New Zealand Heartland XV from 2009 to 2015 alongside multiple coaching staff.

Last year, he managed the Provincial Barbarians for the opening game of the British and Irish Lions tour in Whangarei, then the NZ Marist XV who played NZ Heartland XV in Timaru.

This season he managed the Hurricanes Development programme, overseeing the Super Rugby franchise's Development XV and Under 20's for eight matches.