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Pride of Manawatu to guide the AllBlacks

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James Mortimer     23 Jun 2012     Getty Images

The two also played with each other at school level, although Fielding and Palmerston North were graced with the presence of Smith and Cruden respectively, while the duo had different paths to All Blacks representation.

Cruden established himself on the Under-20 stage, guiding the Baby Blacks to the Junior World Cup, while already he has had two distinct stages to his test career.

He has come full circle, from a small playmaker who seemed to be shocked by the intensity of international play, from a balanced and poised first five-eighth who has continued to add facets to his tactical arsenal.

Smith was picked to represent the New Zealand Maori, but was expected to sit behind Chris Smylie, before an injury to the frontline halfback gave a then 21-year-old Smith his opportunity - and clearly he took it and impressed Maori and Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph.

Joseph gave Smith a chance with the Highlanders, and he hasn't looked back, completing a remarkable rise where it now appears he has for now locked in his place as the All Blacks incumbent number nine.

Cruden was looking forward to starting with his old mate.

"It's going to be pretty exciting out there on Saturday," said Cruden.

"We've both played a lot of rugby together, so doing it at the highest level is something we're really looking forward to. We're definitely keen to put on a good performance."

"I supposed I'll be calling the shots and hopefully he just listens, but I'm sure he'll be giving me a lot of talk and a lot of feedback. That's exactly what you want from a 9/10 combination."