Former All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw was at the controls as the Commonwealth Games-bound Queen's Baton was flown into Kaikoura by helicopter.
Also on the flight was McCaw's wife, Olympian and double Commonwealth Games hockey medallist Gemma McCaw, who carried the baton.
The pair were greeted by hundreds of schoolchildren as they stepped off the chopper at Churchill Park on Tuesday afternoon.
"We touched the baton and I asked Richie if he was still keeping up his rugby skills," 11-year-old Ashley Harnett said.
"I like playing rugby and he told me to keep playing, which was cool."
McCaw was part of the Christchurch helicopter team that responded in the aftermath of last year's Kaikoura earthquake and he was pleased to be back.
"It's little communities like this which are where a lot of our sports stars come from and this place has had a tough time, so it's good to be able to stop in and hopefully inspire some kids," he said.
The baton is touring New Zealand this week as part of its 230,000km journey around the Commonwealth before the Games on the Gold Coast in April.
Its next stop is Christchurch on Wednesday.