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Milestone for Vito but team comes first

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Lynn McConnell     04 Aug 2016     Getty Images

Not surprisingly for one who has known the tough times with the Hurricanes, Vito is concentrated more on the team than on his personal milestone at the weekend.

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But whatever happens in what is sure to be a worthy final, Vito can reflect on a job well done with the side.

Marked for the international heights from his earliest days in the game, he was nominated for World Rugby's Under-19 player of the year award in 2006, the year he played the first of his 62 games for Wellington.

But it was to be 2009 before he graduated to Super Rugby status. However, the wait to step up for the Marist St Pats player was worth the wait because he was recognised by the All Blacks selectors a year later, being included in the extended training squad at the start of the season.

Vito made the first of his 33 Test appearances that year against Ireland at New Plymouth. His last Test was in the Rugby World Cup final against Australia last year.

He always had leadership skills and led the New Zealand Under-19 team at their world tournament. He was also a member of the All Blacks Sevens team in 2007-08, the national secondary schools side in 2004 and the New Zealand Under-21 side in 2007.



Vito said in the lead-up to the Super Rugby final that it could be said his departure had been perfectly scripted to go out in his 100th game for the side but admitted the excitement for him was in the fact the Hurricanes had a shot at finally winning the title.

"The thing about this team is I think the culture has been building for the last few years," he said.

Last year's team which lost the final, also in Wellington, to the Highlanders, had instilled a level of belief in the side, and while many of those same players were not involved this year, the systems put in place then were still doing the job.

Young players coming in may have been fresh and green, he said, but they had all put their hands up.

"The biggest thing that has made us happy as a team, even though guys have gone down [with injuries] they've [the new players] come in and slotted in like nothing was different," he said.

For the Hurricanes to succeed they would need to ensure their defence was on song because that was a big part of the Lions' game. While they had the usual South African firepower in the front five, their loose forwards could be a handful when interplaying with their backs.

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"They've got threats all over the field. I think they're a massive threat to us," he said.

Vito said there was a different feel to the Hurricanes this year. It wasn't any better or worse than last year, it was just different.

And as a key operator in the loose he was well aware of the threat the Lions posed in that department.

"Their loose trio worked really well at the weekend, pilfered a lot of ball, so I'm sure they're in good stead no matter what happens but I'm sure they'd love their captain [Warren Whiteley] to be back," he said.

Vito will head to French club La Rochelle on a three-year contract in the Top 14 competition. Whether he will have a Super Rugby title to add to the two Rugby World Cup winners' medals he already has remains to be seen.

But the gap he will leave for the Hurricanes in the future is the measure of how much he has meant to the side since making his debut.