New Zealand captain Kieran Read made his return from back surgery for a Counties Manukau side including amateurs and club players in a pre-season clash on Wednesday.

The Crusaders number eight has been sidelined since going under the knife late last year to free nerve pressure from a disc bulge.

Read was back in action against a Tasman outfit as Counties stepped up their preparations for the Mitre Cup campaign at Mountfort Park, Manurewa.

The All Blacks skipper went back to his roots to turn out for the first half, with his father watching on, and is now targeting a Super Rugby comeback.

"My body is actually okay - it is a bit tired," he said.

"Today really was just to go out and get a bit of contact, take a few hits, make some tackles and really just enjoy the game.

"We got through all that with no adverse effects on the body. It is going to be a step up going back to Super Rugby. It was good to get that hit-out so now it is up to the coaches to decide how they want to use me.

"Maybe in a smaller way off the bench or something next week."