Jonah Lomu sprints past French winger Nicolas Jeanjean during a test at the WestpacTrust Stadium in Wellington on 30 June 2001. New Zealand won 37–12. Lomu was the game’s first global superstar, an international ‘brand’ as recognisable in Tokyo or Milan as in Māngere or Wellington. At his playing best, he weighed about 118 kilograms and was 1.95 metres tall – the weight and height of a lock forward, yet he played on the wing because he also had speed. In 1995, the year of his apotheosis, three or four of the bigger All Black forwards were taller than him, but none was heavier. And he was just 20 years old. Lomu gained his global status in the World Cup semi-final against England in Cape Town. He scored four tries in the match, the first by simply running over Mike Catt. Opposing players marvelled at Lomu’s bulk and speed: it was like trying to tackle a battering ram, remarked Scotland’s captain, Gavin Hastings. Lomu’s impact on the field led to his being marketed off it by multinational companies. When the All Blacks were in Sicily later in 1995, Lomu was mobbed by screaming teenagers.
His story reached unprecedented heights when it was learnt he was playing with a chronic kidney complaint which later necessitated a transplant. Although his career with the All Blacks had finished, Lomu continued to play at a high level with his new kidney. In 63 test matches for New Zealand he scored 37 tries. Jonah Lomu died suddenly on 18 November 2015, aged 40.
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New Zealand Herald
Photograph by Mark Mitchell
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