Highlander Ethan De Groot did not think he would get another crack at the game-day 23 this year.
He had already tasted disappointment.
He was named on the bench against the Jaguars, in Buenos Aires, only to have the game cancelled due to Covid-19.
However, he was named on the bench for the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash against the Chiefs on Sunday, and, with 11 minutes left in the game, made his debut.
It was a game the prop will not be forgetting, considering the Highlanders came from behind to win 33-31 thanks to a try from Sio Tomkinson in the 82nd minute.
De Groot said it was a “dream come true” when he ran out on to the paddock.
“I was a bit nervous, but got good once I was on,” he said.
Despite being “gutted” the match in March was cancelled, he felt more prepared on Sunday.
“To be fair, I didn’t think I would get another crack at it again this year.
“I was gutted when it was called off, but, to be fair, I wasn’t ready then ..
“I’m building nicely into the game, I know how the game day routine works .. I was way more ready.”
Returning from Argentina had posed an unorthodox situation for the Highlanders.
The game was called off as the Government announced travellers had to self-isolate for 14-days upon return.
The team returned two days after the announcement and were subject to the quarantine.
Then came lockdown.
De Groot spent it in Dunedin, with his Highlanders flatmates centre Rob Thompson and fellow Southland Stag Manaaki Selby-Rickit.
They did fitness work and trained together as much as they could, before linking with the rest of the team after the five-week period.
He felt the Highlanders had come out of the lockdown “a whole new team”.
“We’re clicking together.”
The eight-cap Southland Stag was savouring making the step up to the professional league and was reaping the rewards.
“Fulltime rugby – it’s any kid’s dream.
“I’m in better nick than I have been playing Mitre 10 [Cup] and going back to building after.”