It's been 11 months since Lima Sopoaga first put on an All Blacks jersey at Ellis Park.

Since then, he hasn't worn it again, missing out on the All Blacks squad that won the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

A heartbreaking moment for Sopoaga, who led the Highlanders to a Super Rugby title just months before, and a period of his career which he said was "devastating".

However, that disappointment ended last night when Sopoaga came off the bench in the All Blacks test against Wales and fulfilled his lifelong dream for just the second time.


He told Tony Veitch on Newstalk ZB that the test cap optimised everything he'd been working for in the past year.

"It didn't really hit me until I got my kit at three o'clock," Sopoaga said. "I just had tears in my eyes when I went back to my room and I just thought about everything I've been through and all the things I've overcome."

"I was pretty blown away by the whole atmosphere and just wearing the black jersey again."

The specialist first-five only got on the park for 25 minutes, and while Beauden Barrett and Israel Dagg stole the show in the 46-6 win, it meant more to Sopoaga than anyone, playing in front of his hometown crowd.

"I had my family in the crowd, and my best mate out there. I just sort of knew when I went out there that this test meant a lot to me for more than one reason."

"When I got my boarding pass to get on the field, it was more relief and satisfaction that it had taken me 11 or so months to get back here."

Sopoaga will return to the Highlanders camp this week with the team travelling to South Africa to take on the Kings on Sunday morning (NZT).