Following Jonah Lomu rapidly became a spectator sport at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.
Only those who witnessed the public chaos and moving hordes of adulation trail Lomu could comprehend the magnetic attraction of the young man who became the code's first global superstar after his opening match against Ireland. It was remarkable that this massive wing, in his test infancy, gained so much attention that media magnate Rupert Murdoch demanded his signature for a professional career.
New Zealanders watched and wondered the year before as Lomu made his awkward teenage test debut and was then taken off the international roster and told to work through the provincial competition. He joined the All Black camps and battled with the fitness demands as the public tut-tutted and frowned about his potential.
Gridiron called and Lomu was keen to be a Dallas Cowboy until mates like Eric Rush, Frank Bunce, Walter Little and Michael Jones persuaded him to stay for the North-South trial. He was devastating in that match and plans to have him at the World Cup were reactivated.
It was tough going but the big man made the squad. The difference between Lomu
training in NZ and Lomu in action in South Africa was spectacular. Attention exploded as security increased for the All Blacks while Lomu needed personal protection.
The adulation was like nothing ever seen in New Zealand sport although that changed on Lomu's return. It was certainly alien for those of us fortunate to watch his work at the World Cup and witness the seething adulation.
"I remember after the semi-final against England, I went to buy some toothpaste and the whole mall followed me to the shop," Lomu recalled. "So here I was, stuck out the back in the storage cupboard, and waiting for the security guys to clear a passage so I could get back to my hotel. That's when I first realised my life wasn't my own."
It's been that way ever since and while that has been a strain on a young sportsman, especially one who developed life-threatening kidney problems, Lomu has learned to carry those intrusions.
He understands what being an All Black entails, 365 days of the year, and has worked out how to ride with that adulation rather than push back.