Even a year ago, Cruden had been struggling to make Mark Hammett's stuttering Hurricanes team. A number of erratic performances had seen him fall out of favour with his coach as he failed to replicate the form which had seen him awarded 'IRB World Junior Player of the Year' two years earlier in 2009. How quickly things can change...
This weekend, Cruden has the opportunity to become a Super Rugby champion, as his Chiefs face the Sharks in the final of the Super 15. His performances thus far in 2012 have also had him touted as Super Rugby's potential 'Player of the Season'.
What a meteoric rise to stardom for the flyhalf. It is even more astounding though, when one considers the struggles he endured as a young man. At the tender age of 19, Cruden received the news that no man wants to hear; diagnosis - testicular cancer.
Thankfully he battled his way into remission, displaying the sort of bravery and courage throughout his recovery which had him earmarked as a future All Black so many years ago. At 23, his sights are now set on the upper echelons of world rugby too. The phrase 'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' couldn't ring truer in his case.
Cruden has been the form flyhalf in Super Rugby 2012
The former Junior All Blacks captain has matured as a flyhalf in 2012, under the fatherly wing of Chiefs and Manawatu coach Dave Rennie. There is no doubt that his mentor's presence in Waikato hugely influenced Cruden's decision to abandon ship at the Hurricanes and settle further north in Hamilton.
How that reciprocal faith has paid dividends too. Under their combined guidance, the Chiefs have topped the ferociously competitive NZ conference in this year's Super 15 and now find themselves in the final of the southern hemisphere's flagship tournament as reward.
While the Chiefs have some talented and experienced players amongst their ranks, rest assured it will be Cruden that many will be looking to, for inspiration and leadership, as he attempts to lead his adopted franchise to their inaugural Super Rugby title.
Cruden has always been a 'dangerman' on the rugby field; that much was evident during his stint with the Hurricanes. Where Cruden seems to have improved his game drastically though is his game-management.
He still possesses the same impish running style, capable of teasing and coaxing mistakes from the very best of defences and can punish them just as devastatingly as before. His improved option taking though, has seen him evolve into a far more balanced orchestrator of play.
Improved goal kicking, tactical kicking and general reading of play, all worked on under the watchful eye of former All Black assistant Wayne Smith, have made him 'the real deal' in many pundits' eyes.
Dan Carter will be all to aware of Cruden's promise
By common consent, he even outplayed NZ's golden boy, Dan Carter, in last week's semi-final victory over the Crusaders. Carter at times was grasping at thin air in his attempts to nullify the prodigy's blistering running game.
The man who seemed almost untouchable for the best part of 8 years in a black jersey is now looking over his shoulder. With good reason too. Cruden is here to stay and an influential performance in this weekend's Super Rugby Final could see the quiet whispers for Cruden to start in the All Blacks' 10 jersey during the upcoming Rugby Championship, turn into a crescendo of desire from the NZ public.
Cruden showed during his brief but impressive cameo for NZ during their successful World Cup campaign last year that he can handle the pressure of expectation which so inevitably is rested on the play-maker's shoulders in the land of the long white cloud. His 20 minute destruction of Ireland this June also suggests that he won't be warming the bench for too much longer either. That devilishly tantalising performance stamped Cruden's name in the public consciousness for good.
His time isn't four years time. It's now. If Cruden can bamboozle the Sharks' Springbok laden side in the same manner as he has done all season, no further proof will be needed. He'll also become a true Chiefs hero.