Hooker Derren Witcombe was a surprise choice for the Blues in 2002 after just one season of provincial rugby for Northland, but he went on to cement his place in the squad and played five seasons for the franchise.
He missed the 2005 season due to a serious neck injury whilst playing for Auckland against Canterbury, but through passion and hard work recovered from the injury so well that he played through the 2006 Air New Zealand Cup campaign and the following year’s Super 14.
However a collapsed scrum in the opening 2007 Air New Zealand Cup match caused a similar though less serious injury, resulting in him retiring on medical advice.
Witcombe made his All Black debut in the 91-0 defeat of Fiji at Albany in 2005. He retained his place in the squad during the Lions and Tri Nations series, making five appearances in all, four as a substitute, with Mealamu the first choice.
He also represented New Zealand Juniors in the 2007 Pacific Nations Cup matches.