Perenara eager to grasp All Blacks opportunity
TJ Perenara is relishing the opportunity to prove himself from the start when New Zealand take on Argentina in The Rugby Championship on Saturday.
With the title already in the bag for the All Blacks, the Hurricanes scrum-half has been preferred to regular number nine Aaron Smith for this weekend's match in Buenos Aires.
The selection marks a deserved turnaround for Perenara, who was left out of the June series against Wales but has been in superb form for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby.
The 24-year-old has 23 caps to his name so far, but Saturday's match will mark just his fifth start in an All Blacks jersey.
"It's a good opportunity and it's something I'm looking forward to experiencing again," he explained to allblacks.com.
"I've only had a few starts in the jumper so to get out there again in the number nine jersey is something I'm excited about.
"Every start has probably meant the same. My first start against the United States was a special moment and I got a start against the Argentinians last year in Christchurch which was pretty special too."
Coach Steve Hansen explained his decision to make the change at scrum-half was intended to allow Perenara to prove himself as a capable alternative to Smith.
And he will be in familiar company when he takes to the field in South America, with fellow Hurricanes man Beauden Barrett - top scorer in this year's competition - starting at 10.
"I feel like we are on a similar wavelength when we view games and situations on the field, so a lot of the time I am thinking a call is on, he is thinking the same thing," added Perenara.
Hansen made a total of nine changes to the matchday squad that wrapped up the Rugby Championship title with a 41-13 victory over South Africa last time out, with Liam Squire set for his full debut.
"When it came to selecting this side, our key focus was to select a team that would maintain a high standard of performance and also allow us to grow our player depth and experience in the Test arena," Hansen revealed.
"We also took into consideration the fact that we have seven Tests under our belts this year and more Tests and a lot of international travel to come."
Argentina sit bottom of the standings after four matches, edging the Springboks 26-24 in August for their only win.
New Zealand were 57-22 victors when the teams met in Hamilton in round three.