On this day five years ago – November 18, 2015 – All Blacks great Jonah Lomu tragically died. He was 40.
The larger-than-life winger dominated the sport during his all-too-short playing career and is still widely regarded as one of the premier left-wings to have ever played the game.
He became the youngest ever All Black when he played his first international in 1994 at the age of 19 years and 45 days. Playing on the wing Lomu finished his international career with 63 caps and 37 tries. He is regarded as the first true global superstar of rugby and consequently had a huge impact on the game. Lomu was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame on 9 October 2007, and the IRB Hall of Fame on 24 October 2011.[
Despite having just two All Black caps, Lomu was included in the squad for the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. Lomu scored seven tries in five matches, two in the first match against Ireland in Johannesburg, a try in the quarter final against Scotland at Loftus Versfeld, and four tries in the semi-final against England at Newlands. The first try in the English match occurred after Lomu received a pass behind him, beat two defenders and then, after a stumble, ran straight over the top of Mike Catt. This reduced one New Zealand commentator, Keith Quinn, to gasps.[
After the game, England captain Will Carling said: “He is a freak and the sooner he goes away the better”. His first score was voted the try of the tournament. In 2002 the UK public voted Lomu’s performance no. 19 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments. New Zealand played the World Cup final at Ellis Park against South Africa. Neither side scored a try, with South Africa coming out on top 15–12 after kicking a drop-goal in extra time.
All told, Lomu played 63 Tests for the All Blacks, scoring 37 tries.
Lomu was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and the IRB Hall of Fame in 2011.
Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder in 1995, and the disease had a significant impact on his playing career and wider life. By 2003 he was on dialysis and in 2004 underwent a kidney transplant. He then attempted a comeback but did not play international rugby again, and retired from professional rugby in 2007. He died unexpectedly on 18 November 2015 after suffering a heart attack associated with his kidney condition.