After the tackle that damaged his shoulder, he said he was in a lot of pain and it was tough to move the shoulder or do anything with it in the next couple of days.
He had prepared himself for the worst.
"For me to be here I'm just really grateful and very proud of the medical team and the rehab I've done to get myself in a position to run out for the first game," he said.
The medical advice all along had been that he would be fine, though at times he found that to believe but he said he had to trust them and go along with the plan.
At the same time having a mental plan to cope if he did miss out was important and he had prepared for that eventuality. However, being in Japan he was grateful to be involved.
It was a dream come true to be playing at a World Cup. It was something he had been wanting to do 'forever'.
"As All Blacks we embrace all the challenges and this is huge challenge for us so I'll soak it up. I'll be out in the middle of the field and looking around thinking, 'Wow, what an amazing time to be here', but knowing in the back of my head I have a job to do and the team needs me to do my role well."
He said he was feeling settled in leading the side around the field.
"When you wear the No.10 jersey for the All Blacks that is part of your role, it's something you have to do and it's something the team needs you to do, so for me it's being as clear as I can with our game plan and what we're trying to achieve so I can boss the boys around," he said.
Fellow Crusader second five-eighths Ryan Crotty had more reason than most to appreciate being in Japan having endured missing out on the 2015 World Cup through non-selection and then suffering a string of injuries, with the most recent a broken thumb towards the end of the Super Rugby campaign.
But he was feeling fit and ready and while he had a sore thumb as he recovered from the fracture, he was still able to run and was feeling fit.
Crotty said one of the reasons he had continued to play in New Zealand was potentially to have the opportunity to play at the World Cup.
"Now it's important for me to be where my feet are. I think if you look back too much you can come unstuck, it's just [being] focused on what I can do right now to perform well on Saturday.
"I try not to reflect too much and try to keep on moving forward and what I've got to do next," he said.
Having prepared well for the game, it still felt like the start of the tournament had been a long time coming. While there was excitement about the tournament through all the side, it was important to stay calm.
Wing George Bridge said he and fellow wing Sevu Reece had taken a moment together during the week to soak in the fact they were at the World Cup, after a meteoric rise to Test status.
But with the game ahead, and possible South African tactics, Bridge said he was happy that he could contest high kicks if that was what the Springboks employed.
At the same time he realised that it was also important to read what was happening and to be ready to take on a more defensive role if needed.
"They kicked a few high balls in Wellington so we'll be ready for those but if they want to run it we've just got to be able to adapt. I've just got to have good connections - if it's Crotts on the outside of the line then I need to be talking to him," he said.