Prop Chris King gives Highlanders the big tick
Veteran Highlanders prop Chris King has declared the current Highlanders setup as the best he has been involved in as he eyes a significant milestone in South Africa tomorrow morning.
King will play his 100th Super Rugby game for the Highlanders when he starts at tighthead prop against the Stormers.
He will become just the third Highlander to play 100 games for the Dunedin-based franchise with the others being Anton Oliver and Jimmy Cowan.
His first game in the Highlanders jersey was in 2005 when he come off the bench against the Bulls in Dunedin.
From the 22 against the Bulls that day King is the only player still remaining at the Highlanders.
Hundreds of players and three head coaches have come and gone since he started with the southern franchise but the bloke known as "Mule" by his team-mates rates the class of 2014 as something that bit more special than others.
"I think the environment we have at the moment is one of the better ones we've had. Obviously over the years there's probably been 100-odd players come and go and I think what we have now is pretty special with the young guys coming through, and over the last couple of years guys like Ben Smith and Aaron Smith have played for the All Blacks. It's pretty exciting to be involved with."
Of the 10 Highlanders campaigns King has been involved with his form at the moment is arguably the best it has been.
King, who turned 33 this week, has a massive workrate around the field and is a senior player when it comes to the set piece.
"I think Browny [Tony Brown] made a good point a while ago when he said it wasn't until [he was] 30 that he started playing his better rugby.
"He knew what to do and probably wasn't worried about the smaller stuff that goes with it, just go and do the job. That's what happens to a lot of rugby players, they get to that age and a lot of the distractions aren't around. You probably get a good balance between rugby and family life. I think that's what's happening [to me] I'm enjoying my rugby."
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph praised King for achieving his milestone adding that he is a big part of the Highlanders family.
"Any man that's played 100 games it pretty much reflects 1000 trainings doesn't it. So to get through that and still be playing the quality of football that Mule is playing you've got to take your hat off to," Joseph said.
King said a couple of victories stood out in the 99 games he has played for the Highlanders. Theyinclude wins against old foes the Crusaders and a win to mark current assistant coach Tony Brown's 100th Super Rugby match.
"Probably a couple of highlights, obviously beating the Crusaders over the years, especially the one in Nelson [where] we were the underdogs and went up there and knocked them over.
"Then three years ago when Browny played his 100th Super game against the Bulls in Pretoria, that was a exciting game to be part of and even last weekend, beating the Sharks, I've been involved in the team for 10 years and I think that was only the second time we've beaten the Sharks at home."
The Southland Times