All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu passed away four years ago today.

There were many great moments in his career. We've put together 11 of the best, along with his own thoughts on each from extracts of his autobiography - Jonah: My Story.

1) Bursts onto the scene - 1994 Hong Kong sevens

Lomu embarked on his first steps to worldwide fame when he debuted at the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens as an unknown 18-year-old. His tremendous power and strength, coupled with his enormous speed, saw him quickly make his mark with some dazzling try-scoring feats that would become synonymous with his reputation as the world's most damaging wing.

A bout of food poisoning threatened to derail his campaign, but he played regardless and combined well with Eric Rush, Dallas Seymour, Glen Osborne and Graeme Bachop to secure a tournament final win over Australia.

Advertisement

In Jonah's words
Despite coming down with food poisoning early on, my first trip to Hong Kong was a blast. I'm not sure what I picked up, but I was certainly feeling crook just after we arrived. I clearly remember 'Rushie' and coach Gordon Tietjens coming to my room and asking me whether I thought I'd be okay to play. I just said, 'You give me that black jersey and I'll be right - sweet as.' I got straight out of bed, made it through the first training session and went on to play every game. Food poisoning or not, this was a New Zealand jumper and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity. Not only did we win the tournament but I had the time of my life.

2) A legend begins - Test debut - v France, 1994

It was certainly a gamble by All Blacks coach Laurie Mains to name a 19-year-old Jonah Lomu on the wing to face the touring French in 1994. And it's fair to say it didn't really pay off with France upsetting the All Blacks 22-8 at Lancaster Park. Lomu made one bustling run that was a sparkle of the explosions to come. By taking the field he became the youngest ever All Black at just 19 years and 23 days breaking the record set by Edgar Wrigley in 1905. He had made a big statement at the Hong Kong sevens the previous year but test rugby was a huge step up.

Jonah Lomu on the charge against France in 1994. Photosport
Jonah Lomu on the charge against France in 1994. Photosport

In Jonah's words

Receiving my first All Blacks jersey was something I'll never forget. To receive it from Colin Meads was a huge honour. On the morning of the match I knocked on the great man's door. It's fair to say I was shitting myself. Colin opened the door and there before me were all the test jerseys carefully laid out. I was so nervous I can't recall exactly what he said to me. What I do remember, though, is him grabbing my hand in that great mitt of his and wishing me well for the test. ... However what began as a day of great expectations for me turned into a disaster. The game was disappointing; the loss embarrassing. The All Blacks are never expected to lose, and they're especially not allowed to lose at home. It is simply not tolerated. In Christchurch that day we never really got into the game and although there was only a try a piece in it, the French converted all their kicks - including three dropped goals - and were deserving winners.

3) The world meets Jonah - RWC - v Ireland, opening World Cup game, Ellis Park, 1995

A year after his hesitant test entrance, the real Lomu was unleashed with Ireland reduced to a welcome mat. His first touch came in the 21st minute when he smashed past loose-forwards Denis McBride and David Corkery to create a try for Walter Little. There were two short-range Lomu tries, and most memorably a long run during which Lomu knocked away and swerved past defenders before Josh Kronfeld finished off the job. Kronfeld said: "The thing with Jonah is that he is really strong. He is so easy to follow but so hard to support. You don't know whether he is going to pop the ball up or keep going because he quite often props when you think you are going to get a pass and then he goes again."

Jonah Lomu leaves the pitch after the 1995 World Cup game against Ireland. Photo / INPHO/Billy Stickland
Jonah Lomu leaves the pitch after the 1995 World Cup game against Ireland. Photo / INPHO/Billy Stickland

In Jonah's words

I have always suffered badly from pre-match nerves and I'm often physically ill. Against Ireland that it was even worse - my body gave it the whole nine yards. I began vomiting and I continued to vomit, and when I thought it was over I began retching. I remember Earle Kirton, our assistant coach, coming over and asking me if I was okay. I told him I was fine and promptly threw up in the corner. ... In the days leading up to the Irish match there had been a few requests from the world's media for interview with me. I did a few bits and pieces and didn't think too much of it. After Ireland, though, everything changed. It wasn't quite a frenzy, but it was starting to get well ... let's say, busy.

4) 'Lomu, Oh. Oh.' - v England, World Cup semifinal, Newlands, 1995.

His charge through English fullback Mike Catt is an iconic moment for rugby and Lomu's career. He scored four tries in the 45-29 victory, one of them an easy run to the line while the others involved charging past what was made to look like very feeble defending. But that stumbling charge through Catt is the one that will always be most remembered. The All Blacks were primed for this match, in terms of willpower and strategies. Yet all they had to do was get the ball to Jonah.

Advertisement
Jonah Lomu fends off Tony Underwood in the 1995 Rugby World Cup semifinal. Photosport
Jonah Lomu fends off Tony Underwood in the 1995 Rugby World Cup semifinal. Photosport

In Jonah's words

I knew we had their defence stretched and play was moving back in my direction. I could sense it was on: Ready, Jonah, here it comes ... here it comes. On no, the pass is behind me. No. Got it. Look out, here's Underwood coming in for the hit. Misses. Spins. Goal-line ahead. Not far now. Around the outside of Carling. Damn. He's clipped me. Stumbling. Keep your balance Jonah. Get your balance. Get your balance. Look up. Mike Catt. Two strides. No option. Shoulder in my vision. Get your knee up, Jonah. Bang. Into him. Over him. Through him ... Sorry, Mike

5) The wrong ending - v South Africa, World Cup final, Ellis Park 1995

South Africa were playing at home in their first World Cup after years of isolation due to the apartheid regime. The All Blacks, with Lomu to the fore, had been all pace and power on their way to the final. It was a badly off-colour All Blacks, however, who took to the field after many, including Lomu, had been badly affected by food poisoning.

The match was locked at 9-9 at the final whistle, meaning it went into extra time. Andrew Mehrtens landed a long-range penalty but South Africa replied with one of their own. Seven minutes from time, Stransky landed a dropped goal to hand the Springboks a famous victory.

James Small contests with Jonah Lomu in the air during the Rugby World Cup final. Photosport
James Small contests with Jonah Lomu in the air during the Rugby World Cup final. Photosport

In Jonah's words

The winning blow was struck early in the second period [of extra time] when Stransky kicked his second dropped goal of the match. We couldn't reply - 15-12. All Blacks don't cry. This was the end, though ... and All Blacks cried. Given our circumstances, I think we fought brilliantly. Obviously there wasn't the same sharpness about our play that we'd shown in our earlier matches, but in the end 15 players pulled on their black jerseys that day and in the end we came up short. Would we have won if we'd been fully fit? Don't know. Who can say? I've accepted the loss. You can't go through life making excuses. Winning is sweet - winning in the All Blacks jersey is the sweetest thing in life. All Blacks pride and guts got us so close to glory as possible. All Blacks are good winners. Sometimes, as much as it hurts, All Blacks have got to be good losers.

6. Golden glow - 1998 Commonwealth Games, Kuala Lumpur

The Kuala Lumpur event was the first time sevens had featured at the Commonwealth Games and Lomu's presence ensured the fledging sport received global attention. New Zealand beat old foes Fiji 21-12 in the final, with Lomu turning in a man-of-the-match display after setting up two of his side's three tries.

The first came from a standing start, when he burst between two defenders and passed to Bruce Reihana who linked with Rush before Seymour ran in untouched. Their second five-pointer followed soon after, when Lomu took a tap penalty in centre field and carried the ball to within 5m of the Fijian line, ignoring three attempted tackles to get the ball away for Christian Cullen to dive over. Caleb Ralph's second-half try secured the result but Lomu's tireless contribution was the cornerstone of the historic win.

Dallas Seymour, Jonah Lomu and Eric Rush and teammates perform a haka after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT
Dallas Seymour, Jonah Lomu and Eric Rush and teammates perform a haka after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT

In Jonah's words

I was desperate to end the year on a high. A silver medal to go with five losing tests wasn't an option. Before the final, Rushie got me so wound up I reckon I'd have run through a brick wall - he always knew which buttons to press. He told me just before the game that the Fijians had said I was only good for one run and that I was hopeless on defence. Rushie lit my fuse with those comments. The medal ceremony after the final was emotional for all of us and I don't mind admitting there were a few tears when the national anthem was played. Rushie always says his eyes were moist from sweat. Don't believe it. We were all choked up. My gold medal is something I will always treasure.

7. The rematch - v England, World Cup, Twickenham, 1999

It was 'only' a pool match but it was so much more than that. Images of Lomu walking over Catt inevitably resurfaced but the English were confident of victory on home soil. They were a different side and wanted this one for more reasons than merely earning an easier path to the semifinals.

England started well, but couldn't convert pressure into points. They worked their way back into the contest until the pivotal moment was delivered by the pivotal player - Lomu. He latched onto a long pass and ran 50m for a try, swatting aside myriad England defenders. The All Blacks went on to win 30-16.

Jonah Lomu breaks the tackle of Jeremy Guscott during the 1999 World Cup clash with England. Photosport
Jonah Lomu breaks the tackle of Jeremy Guscott during the 1999 World Cup clash with England. Photosport

In Jonah's words

My clearest memory of that match is the try I scored halfway through the second spell. It started when we forced a turnover just inside our half and the ball came out toe Andrew Mehrtens. 'Hit me, Mehrts, hit me!' I screamed. Good old Mehrts. He fired out one of his specials and I knew it was on. As I planted the ball, there were arms and legs everywhere. The, whack. I copped a beauty on the side of my head from Lawrence Dallaglio I was filthy. 'What the hell was that for?' I yelled. 'I'm over the bloody tryline!' I didn't realise then that he had been hit from behind after I scored, but I still believe there was no need for him to drop down on my head with his forearm. I'm not usually a player who goes for verbals. This time, though, I was really pissed off. Dallaglio had only just returned to the English team after a newspaper had set him up in that famous drugs 'sting'. The news was still hot in Britain. As I got up, and in between the pushing and shoving, I fired a shot at Dallaglio. "Trouble with you, mate, is that you've been doing too many 'line' - too many drugs," I said as I ran back to position, tapping my arm. I actually like the guy and I accept now that it was just one of those things. Life's a bit short to be holding grudges.

8. Non, non, non - v France, World Cup semifinal, Twickenham, 1999

This was the closest it could get to a horror movie for All Blacks fans. What they saw left a scar for many years. The All Blacks had beaten France 54-7 earlier that year, when Les Blues had been terrible. Despite that, coach John Hart had talked before the semifinal about France's ability to create something out of nothing. How prophetic.

The All Blacks led by 14 points early in the second half after Lomu had scored. Then it all went horribly wrong. The French ignited into action, the All Blacks were beset by mistakes and in 27 minutes, France scored 33 points, the All Blacks none.

Jonah Lomu leaves the field at the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup semifinal between the All Blacks and France. Photosport
Jonah Lomu leaves the field at the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup semifinal between the All Blacks and France. Photosport

In Jonah's words

What happened in the second half seems almost unexplainable. It was unreal. The French quite simply caught fire. I have never seen another team do anything like what they did to us in that second half. Out of this world. What about the three tries they scored? What about those magic touches and switches of play? The owned the ball - and they buried us. Every time they kicked a goal ore scored a try we told ourselves it was just a matter of regaining control. Trouble was, they were out of control. The harder we tried the worse it got. Jeff Wilson's late try saved us from the mother of all hidings - 43-31. The end. You could hear a pin drop in the dressing room after the match. It was a very lonely time. The World Cup was over and the dream had come crashing down. It's always at these moments that the players think about the team and what the jersey stands for. It's an empty feeling. The emptiest feeling in the world. It's only later ... that you think about the reaction back home. Sure, we knew the knives would be out and that we'd cop plenty from the media. But for those few moments in the Twickenham dressing room it was only about the team.

9. The greatest game ever - v Australia, Sydney, 2000

Lomu added to his legend again with a match-winning performance in the All Blacks' 39-35 win over the Wallabies in the first Bledisloe Cup encounter of 2000 in Sydney. In what was billed as the greatest game of rugby ever played, Lomu helped the All Blacks establish a commanding early lead with a trademark sideline run that saw him blast through Australian fullback Chris Latham before offloading to Pita Alatini for their second try after three minutes.

The Wallabies roared into the match and a Jeremy Paul try put them ahead 35-34 with six minutes remaining, before some Lomu heroics turned the game on its head. Two minutes from fulltime, the All Blacks probed left through Taine Randell, whose overhead basketball-style pass found Lomu in space before he eased past the grabbing tackle of Stephen Larkham to tip toe down the touchline and in to score and secure another famous victory.

All Blacks wing Jonah Lomu on the charge during 2000 test against Australia in Sydney. Photosport
All Blacks wing Jonah Lomu on the charge during 2000 test against Australia in Sydney. Photosport

In Jonah's words

We were deep into injury time when the break finally arrived. Alama Ieremia punched hard at the Aussie defence, dragging in a bunch of defenders on their 22m and set up the ruck. I knew we had the Wallabies stretched out left. I could hardly contain myself. Forget the patience stuff. I started screaming as Byron Kelleher passed to Taine Randell. "Give it to me! Give it to me!" His lobbed pass dropped perfectly into my arms and I set sail for the line. Only Steve Larkham to beat and only a couple of metres to work in. I had to stay on his outside and all the time I was aware I was getting dangerously close to the touchline. Larkham's attempted tackle hardly slowed me and it was really just a matter of keeping my balance as I tiptoed down the chalk. The try took a moment or two to register, but when it did... man, it was so sweet: 39-35. The Wallabies' first loss as world champs. Beautiful.

10. Comeback. Jonah Lomu XV v Martin Johnson XV 2005

Lomu received a kidney transplant in July 2004 from good friend Grant Kereama. The radio personality had seen an ailing Lomu hand out an award at the 2004 Halberg Awards and offered to help. Remarkably, he was a match. Lomu began his mission to get back on a rugby field soon after the operation. His ultimate goal was to play in the 2007 World Cup and, while he didn't achieve that, he returned to rugby in 2005 in a festival game against a Martin Johnson XV at Twickenham. Johnson was retiring, Lomu was making a comeback.

Before the match, Lomu signed a two-year deal to join North Harbour but sustained a serious shoulder injury in the festival match that scuppered his chances of playing for Harbour in 2005.

Jonah Lomu dives in the corner for a try during his comeback match for the Jonah Lomu XV vs Martin Johnson's XV. Photosport
Jonah Lomu dives in the corner for a try during his comeback match for the Jonah Lomu XV vs Martin Johnson's XV. Photosport

In Jonah's words

By the end of 2004 my hard work had paid off. I was the fittest I had been in months - maybe years. Even the anti-rejection drugs, which are fairly heavy-duty, didn't seem to be holding me back. Like all athletes, though, nothing quite beats competition. Nothing ever replaces game time. It was Christmas and the only present I wanted was that game time. Leading the boys out in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 at one of the world's great sporting stadiums was an emotional experience. I managed a try quite early in the first half which, to be honest, I thought was a bit iffy. I injured my shoulder as I was scoring. At first I thought it was a dislocation and I carried on until halftime before the medical people made a decision I shouldn't return for the second half. Later it was discovered that I had sheared off 40 per cent of the bone in my shoulder joint. At the press conference I was quoted as saying the game was a stepping stone and this opportunity had given me a fresh start. Little did I realise the injury I sustained would be a massive setback and put me out of the game for months.

11. The end of his rugby career

Lomu made his North Harbour debut against one of his old provinces, Wellington, in 2006. It was a huge moment for him, to return to first-class rugby, but he was no where near the Jonah of old and saw limited game time that season because of injuries and form. Lomu retired from rugby in 2007 but appeared in a handful of charity and festival matches and in 2009 even took part in an amateur bodybuilding contest in Wellington. He made a rugby comeback in an amateur French competition later that year, often playing at No 8, the position he played as a youngster.

In Jonah's words
My short stint with North Harbour didn't play out the way I wanted it to. If I'm honest, I've got to say that at the time I wasn't good enough. It didn't stop me trying everything I could to help the team. I kept working, kept pushing, kept going. I only got a handful of starts and while it was disappointing back then, I still recall those few appearances with a lot of pride. Pride in the achievement. Pride in simply making it back to rugby - back to rugby on New Zealand soil. I felt a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was comfortable in the knowledge that I had still achieved something that many felt was impossible. I had defied medical odds to play first-class rugby again. The knockers had served it up to me, but I had got back on the horse and given it my best shot.

Extracts from Jonah: My Story (Hachette New Zealand), 2013