Cowan deserves start to celebrate 100th cap

Last updated 05:00 05/04/2012

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OPINION: It seems like an absolute eternity when I think back to 2000 and remember the time that Jimmy Cowan bust his way in to the Southland rugby scene.

He was doing plenty on the field at club level or for Southland Country, and that year he ended up making his Southland debut in a preseason match against Otago.

Fast forward the clock 12 years and Cowan will confidently go down as one of Southland rugby's greats.

He's played 94 games for Southland, played 50 tests for the All Blacks and sits on 99 Super Rugby games for the Highlanders.

His longevity is something to admire for a boy from Mataura who had a few rough edges.

Saturday night will be a special one as he achieves something most rugby players in New Zealand will never do – which is raising three figures in the Super Rugby cap count.

Disappointingly, the achievement will probably be celebrated with a shadow hovering over it.

The word is that Cowan won't be named to start against the Stormers and his 100th cap will come from the bench on Saturday night in Dunedin.

Understandably, it doesn't seem to be sitting all that well with the All Blacks halfback.

There's no doubting Aaron Smith has been a revelation for the Highlanders at halfback this season and has deserved the opportunities he has been given. But Saturday night should be Jimmy's night.

Cowan on many occasions over the years could have easily turned his back on the Highlanders when they were down in the dumps and struggling to attract players.

The organisation was a shambles and many would ask why Cowan stayed with a struggling team when the Blues and Crusaders wanted his signature.

The way he stood by the Highlanders during the tough times, in my eyes, should lead to him being given the opportunity on Saturday night to start against the Stormers.

Whether the milestone comes from starting or off the bench the reality is the 100 caps must be respected.

It means when he heads to Gloucester – which is expected to be confirmed soon – Cowan will leave with almost every box ticked.

The one final honour would be another provincial season with the Stags to bring up 100 games for his province before he departs.

Congrats Jimmy Cowan, the Highlanders have been well served by your contribution over the years.

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- The Southland Times

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