Since French superstar Philippe Sella reached 100 caps on 26 June, 1994, a further 45 players have gone on to achieve the milestone.
For a couple of years Portugal’s back-row Vasco Uva stood in splendid isolation as the only player from a tier two country to be in the exclusive club, but he now has Merab Kvirikashvili (Georgia) and Florin Vlaicu (Romania) for company, with the prospect of more to come.
Unless Lelos centre Davit Kacharava suffers the same fate as Mike Phillips (Wales) and Alessandro Zanni (Italy) and falls one cap short, he will follow in the footsteps of countryman Kvirikashvili, while Russian duo Victor Gresev and Yury Kushnarev are both on 89 caps and counting.
“It’s not something I thought about earlier in my career but now I am so close to achieving it, it is something I would definitely be proud of. I think it’s important for the team to have two players who have made it to 100 caps, but I still have to get there – nothing is guaranteed in rugby," Kacharava told World Rugby.
Injuries aside, it would be a surprise if Kacharava did not make his century on the tour to North America in June where Georgia play the USA and Canada. The 32-year-old started Georgia’s last three tests and is still very much part of head coach Milton Haig’s plans.
“I think that this trip will be of enormous benefit to the team. By playing these teams we will develop and grow a lot. Hopefully we’ll be able to take our best squad and it will be a successful tour for us," he said.
WORLD CUP DREAM
Kacharava has his sights set not just on reaching his century but on appearing at a fourth Rugby World Cup. He was a member of the side that gave Ireland an almighty scare at France 2007 and was an ever-present in the team in 2011 and 2015.
Georgia secured an historic third-place pool finish at the last tournament in England to secure direct qualification for Japan where, he hopes, Georgia will continue to push back the boundaries with Kvirikashvili by his side.
“Merab is the best rugby player Georgia has ever had. He is our record points scorer and his experience on the field is invaluable," he stressed.
“He has gone to four Rugby World Cups and I hope he will play in a fifth one too.
“The biggest dream I've left to fulfil is that Georgia manage to advance to the quarter-finals of Rugby World Cup 2019.”
Kacharava’s test debut came against Ukraine in Odessa in 2006 but he remembers vividly the first time he ran out in Georgian colours.
“My debut in the national team was in 2004, when I was playing against Blue Bulls at the Dinamo Arena. It was an unofficial game but I still think of it as my debut, because it was a miracle for me to play for the national team against such a rival.”
His encounter with Ireland in Bordeaux at RWC 2007, when the Lelos led 10-7 with half an hour to go, left an equally lasting impression.
“Brian O’Driscoll was my favourite player at the time so to play against him, as a young player, was a real thrill for me. It was the greatest feeling to play on the same field as him and probably my standout memory on a personal level in international rugby.”
During his 11-year test career Kacharava has seen at first-hand how quickly Georgian rugby has progressed.
“Georgian rugby has changed a lot, it has become more dynamic and spectacular. Today each of us are professional players and physically well prepared, but I still think that we have a lot to learn, there is a long way ahead.”
Current tier two players nearing 100 caps
Davit Kacharava (Georgia) - 99
Catalin Fercu (Romania) - 98
Hitoshi Ono (Japan)* - 98
Goncalo Uva (Portugal) - 93
Valentin Calafeteanu (Romania) - 92