Super Rugby Pacific: First-five Richie Mo'unga poised to join Crusaders' centurion club

First-five Richie Mo'unga is poised to become the latest Crusader centurion, a feat he could have only dreamed of reaching at his boyhood club.

Mo'unga, 28, made his Crusaders debut in 2016, joining the under-performing Super Rugby side in the midst of a nine-year championship dry spell.

But together with coach Scott Robertson, has guided the side to an unprecedented six straight titles.

Mo'unga will become the 23rd Crusader to reach the milestone should he play against Moana Pasifika on Friday, an achievement he never thought possible when he first entered the system.

"I'm really proud," he said. "Looking back at many of my milestones, I think this is right up there. 

"Ever since I walked through these doors at Rugby Park, seeing how celebrated the centurions are, I wanted to be one myself.

"At the start, it seemed so far-fetched and seemed like it would take a lot of work and effort - which it has, but to play 100 games for the club I love and the club I grew up watching means a lot.

"There's been a lot of reflection, but the years have gone by so quickly just because every year we're just so focused on the task at hand, whatever the mission is each week, we're just so focused on that. It's gone by so quickly."

Mo'unga's first introduction to Crusaders rugby came a year before his debut, after he was called into the wider training squad.

With no shortage of talent at first-five, he reveals just being in their presence was an eye-opening experience for the then 20-year-old.

"My first year was 2015, and there were four other No.10s that were world-class - Colin Slade, Dan Carter, Tyler Bleyendaal, and Tom Taylor," Mo'unga said.

"So, even just being in the room with them was amazing. Even at that point, I didn't think one day soon, I'd be taking over be holding the reins.

"It's a dream come true really, and I'm just so proud, so proud that I get to do it for the team that I love with all the boys that have been here with me from the start."

Mo'unga will leave the Crusaders at the end of the season, after signing a three-year deal with Japanese team Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo.

Robertson, who will coach the All Blacks from 2024, hopes Mo'unga will return in time for the 2027 World Cup. 

"He's made the decision next year to do the right thing for his family, but to get to 100 games means you're getting through the grind," he said.

"He's been pretty clear on what he wanted to achieve to get there, and we're just really proud to celebrate it with him.

"I think everyone would love him to come back and play. You want your world-leading players to play for your club and your country. So yeah, of course."

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