Brothers, and the lure of a tonne of tests convinces All Black Sam Whitelock to stay loyal
Sports personalities were in plentiful supply when Sam Whitelock loped up to a mob of media types to give his reasons why he had decided to stick with NZ Rugby until 2020.
All Blacks supremo Steve Hansen, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and All Whites boss Anthony Hudson were at Rugby Park for Whitelock's declaration on Thursday, although the football man wasn't there for rugby business as such.
Hudson was having a catch-up with Robertson, the pair are in a coaching programme facilitated by High Performance Sport NZ, while Hansen was there to endorse Whitelock's loyalty to NZ Rugby.
But this was Whitelock's big day - sort of. The announcement of the British and Irish Lions squad was a major talking point, although the All Blacks lock said he hadn't taken much notice of who would be in Warren Gatland gang of 41.
"The general public are super-excited about it, and that is great," Whitelock, who will lead the Crusaders against the Stormers in Christchurch on Saturday night, noted.
"And the players are as well, but there are a lot of games to be played until then."
Whitelock was more forthcoming on why he had shunned overseas offers to remain in Christchurch; although he didn't go into specifics, it had earlier been reported big-spending French club Toulon had him in their sights.
Given one of his brothers, Adam, has been playing for French club Bayonne, and another, George, had a brief stint in Japan, Whitelock didn't have to go far to get some home truths.
"It was good to bounce some ideas off (them) - the positives or negatives, whether it be on or off the field. As brothers you don't really mince your words."
Given he has won two World Cups and played 84 tests, the 28 year old would surely have been offered multi-million dollar deals to live overseas for a few years.
That's not to say NZ Rugby hasn't done the same, but given they are often the first to admit they have no hope of matching the cash being tossed about by the French clubs it seems safe to assume Whitelock didn't stay just for the coin.
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He and wife Hannah recently celebrated the arrival of their first child, is happy at the Crusaders and wants to reinforce why he is an All Blacks great by playing 100 tests.
If he stays fit and his form doesn't wane, it seems likely that milestone will be achieved next season.
There are some strings attached to this deal. Like Ben Smith, who recently re-committed to NZ Rugby until 2020, Whitelock can also pull the pin after the 2019 World Cup.
He also acknowledged he has a clause in his contract to take a break from work, but wouldn't divulge specific details of whether it would allow him to break from Super or test rugby.
"I have a couple of weeks there I can use. I am not sure if, or when, I will use that. As long as I am feeling nice and healthy and playing well, we will see what happens."
Meanwhile, Robertson has elected to remain loyal to first five-eighth Richie Mo'unga for the match against the Stormers at AMI Stadium and named Mitchell Hunt, who started six games when Mo'unga was injured, to the bench.
The seven changes to the side that started in the 50-3 win over the Sunwolves last weekend includes a return of the front row unit of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks, with Scott Barrett at lock and Jordan Taufua at No 6.
Ryan Crotty returns from an ankle injury to start at second-five. George Bridge is on the left wing ahead of hat-trick tryscorer Manasa Mataele.
Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Bryn Hall, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.