Winger Rieko Ioane has said that Saturday’s epic 25-24 Test win over South Africa in Cape Town was the toughest he’s played so far in his young career. Ioane, who had a try disallowed in the first half, scored a crucial intercept try in the second.
Ioane, still just 20-years-old, has cemented his place as the regular left wing starter for the All Blacks, after coming in for a slightly out of form Julian Savea.
In scoring on Saturday, Ioane became joint top try-scorer in this year’s Rugby Championship, tied with Wallaby fullback Israel Folau on five tries each.
The match lived up to the hype, according to Ioane, who first played NZ Sevens aged 17.
“They were saying it is one of the tougher Test matches, and for me, that was the toughest one I’ve ever played and one that I won’t be forgetting,” Ioane said.
The first half of the match lasted a gruelling 50 minutes, as South Africa piled on the pressure.
“I think, after that first half though, the game would have been over – it was that long.
“They rushed up and brought a lot of line speed, and I think that put us under a bit of pressure, especially in that first half. Nothing was really sticking for us, a couple of passes were dropped.
“They just put us under huge defensive pressure with their line speed and I think that flowed on well for them. But it was good that the boys were able to grind it out and come away with the victory.”
On his try, Ioane says that he just ran, despite being gassed at the time.
“We were on defence for a bit, the ball popped up and I had the easiest job, to just run it in and put the ball down. I did my bit, credit was to the boys for their hard work on defence.
“My lungs were blowing, my legs were gone and I was just hoping that I’d make it the full distance. These young legs managed to do it. I was just happy enough to get over the line, sucking a few big ones on the way back.”
The All Blacks now head back home for a week off before they begin preparations for the third and final Bledisloe Cup Test against the Wallabies, in Brisbane on October 21st.
Catch up on highlights from the match below