Power and pace personified
July 29, 2010
All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko will enter the record books again this weekend © Getty Images
New Zealand winger Joe Rokocoko will re-write the record books on Saturday when he becomes the All Blacks most-capped winger of all-time.
His 64th Test appearance against Australia in Melbourne will see him eclipse the marks of legendary duo John Kirwan and Jonah Lomu and to celebrate the fact, our latest Scrum Seven features some of New Zealand's most prolific wingers both in terms of appearances and more importantly the act of scoring.
John Kirwan (1984-1994, 63 Tests, 35 tries)
JK was a key member of the star-studded New Zealand side that went unbeaten for 23 games from 1987 to 1990. Along the way he shared in the All Blacks' victory at the 1987 Rugby World Cup - finishing the tournament as the top scorer with six tries including this length-of-the-field beauty against Italy. He followed up his World Cup exploits with a stand out season the following year - notching 10 tries in five Test appearances. He retired from the game with a then-record 35 tries to his name and his place in New Zealand sporting history assured. On the domestic stage his talents took him from Auckland in his native New Zealand to Treviso in Italy before he dipped his toe in the 13-man-code with the Warriors. He returned to union with NEC in Japan where he later entered the coaching ranks before spells as an assistant at Auckland and as head coach of the Italian national side. He is currently in charge of Japan and will steer the Cherry Blossoms into next year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Jonah Lomu (1994-2002, 63 Tests, 37 tries)
The giant All Blacks wing was the sport's first global star and continues to command a massive following long since having disappeared from the international stage. He exploded onto the scene at the 1995 World Cup with some of the most destructive performances the rugby world had ever seen. He began his career in the New Zealand 7s team and became the youngest All Black aged 19 and 45 days when he made his Test debut against France in 1994. The world had their introduction to the towering strength and unrelenting power in South Africa the following year. The image of the man in black trampling over Mike Catt on his way to scoring one of his four tries against England in the World Cup remains a visual statement of Lomu's extraordinary talent. After the game, England captain Will Carling said: "He is a freak, and the sooner he goes away the better".
He scored seven tries during the tournament and added a further eight in the 1999 World Cup, becoming the top tryscorer. In all Lomu scored 37 tries in his 63 Tests. There is little doubt that he could have scored more if he hadn't been struck down by a debilitating kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome. In 1998 he helped the New Zealand sevens team win the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur but it was clear to many that Lomu was a shade of his former self. He returned to put in strong performances for the All Blacks at the 1999 World Cup and was arguably as formidable as he was in 1995. He scored twice in the semi-final against France and was one of the few to emerge from that disastrous game with his reputation intact.
A kidney transplant in 2004 gave Lomu's career a new lease of life but despite his insistences that he could raise to the heights of All Blacks rugby again, the game had moved on. His rugby travels took him to the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes in Super Rugby and to Cardiff in Walesv and he is currently balancing playing for French club side Marseille Vitrolles with the demands of a true icon of the game.
Joe Rokocoko (2003- , 63 Tests, 45 tries)
Josevata Taliga Rokocoko wasted no time in announcing himself as one of the most lethal finishers in the game when promoted to the All Blacks' ranks in 2003 aged just 19 - the youngest player selected for New Zealand since Lomu in 1994. A deadly combination of speed and deceptive power saw him rack up an incredible 17 tries in 12 Test appearances that year - a world record for a calendar year - including hat-tricks against France and Australia. That haul included five tries on the World Cup stage in Australia and he notched another handful four years later in France.
Rokocoko continued to inflict damage to the world's best with reigning world champions England put to the sword in 2004 with the winger scoring his third Test hat-trick and he would grab another triple against Romania in 2007. He also tasted Super Rugby glory with the Blues in 2003 - before he had even made his provincial bow for Auckland. His latest career landmark came in this year's Tri-Nations when selected for his 64th Test appearance that cemented his place in New Zealand rugby history.
Doug Howlett (2000-2007, 62 Test, 49 tries)
While Rokocoko may be able to lay claim to the most-capped mark he is still some way short of Howlett's record of 49 tries in the world-famous All Blacks jersey. The curly-haired speedster carved up all-comers during a seven-year international career including a tournament-leading seven tries at the 2003 Rugby World Cup and another six four years later leaving second to Lomu in RWC history.
A talented athlete in his youth, Howlett continues to use his sprinting prowess to great effect on the rugby stage - currently with Munster in Ireland. He holds the distinction, along with Australian Rod Kafer, as the only two players to have tasted both Super Rugby and Heineken Cup glory. Howlett shared in the Blues' Super 12 success in 2003, having previously enjoyed spells with the Highlanders and Hurricanes, and was also part of the Munster side that claimed European club rugby's premier event in 2008. Howlett, who is also Super Rugby's all-time leading try-scorer, can also boast a New Zealand provincial success during his time with Auckland and a Magners League winners' medal.
Jeff Wilson (1993-2001, 60 caps, 44 tries)
Wilson, or 'Goldie' as he was known die to his blond hair, had to choose between cricket and rugby after playing four one-day internationals for New Zealand in the early 90s, choosing the oval-ball game and forging a brilliant career for the All Blacks. He made somewhat of a dream debut against Scotland scoring three tries - and even landing a conversion - and went on to score 44 Test tries including an incredible five tries against Fiji in 1997 and four against Samoa in 1999 although on the latter occasion he started at fullback. However, in Australia he is probably better known for a try he didn't score - denied by a great tackle from Wallabies scrum-half George Gregan.
His retirement from rugby in 2001 came as he went in search of a Test cap in cricket and while he again forced his way into the Black Caps' limited overs teams in 2005, he could not make the final step.
Sitiveni Sivivatu (2004-2009, 46 Tests, 31 tries*)
Fiji-born Sivivatu exploded onto the international scene in 2005 with four tries for the All Blacks against the country of his birth having already won three caps for the Pacific Islanders and scored two tries. A graduate of Wesley College, the same school in Pukekohe that produced Jonah Lomu, his second All Black outing was against the 2005 British Lions, where he scored in the 21-3 first test victory. He repeated the feat as the Lions were routed in the second Test, setting up his impressive strike rate of 23 tries from 27 Tests. Tries have not been as easy to come by in recent years but he was amongst the scorers when the All Blacks routed France in Marseille at the end of 2009.
* - Sivivatu scored four tries in three Test appearances for the Pacific Islanders in 2004
Bryan Williams (1970-78, 38 Tests, 10 tries)
A legendary figure within New Zealand rugby, Williams is considered one of the greatest players the country has ever produced. Mainly used as a centre after breaking into the Auckland side at the age of 18 the year before, he was deployed on the wing in South Africa - and to devastating effect, Williams scoring 14 tries in just 13 appearances. He remained a regular in the All Blacks starting XV for another eight years, eventually representing his country on 113 occasions (38 Tests), scoring 66 tries in the process.
Williams, who was also a fine goal-kicker, also enjoyed a successful career at provincial level and played in four of Auckland's Ranfurly Shield-winning teams: in 1971 (over Canterbury), in 1972 (over North Auckland), in 1974 (over Wellington) and in 1979 (over North Auckland). He also played his part in Auckland's inaugural NPC first division title triumph in 1982 before retiring to concentrate on his coaching career. He teamed up with Maurice Trapp and enjoyed fantastic success at club and provincial level with Ponsonby and Auckland respectively before becoming closely involved with Manu Samoa in the 90s. Indeed, it was he who masterminded the Polynesians' shock win over Wales at the 1999 World Cup. In 2000 he became assistant coach to Graham Mourie with the Hurricanes and has spent his most recent years coaching Auckland development sides.