Nearly seven years on, Joe Rokocoko returns to Limerick, hoping the Thomond Park faithful will have forgiven if not forgotten.
The Fijian-born All Black scored the winning try as New Zealand snatched a late 18-16 victory over gallant Munster in a match organised to celebrate the opening of the new stadium on November 18, 2008.
Now, Rokocoko will again show his talents at the ground as part of tonight’s Barbarians team to play Ireland. He is relishing another Limerick experience.
He recalls the 2008 joust: “The whole event was awesome, just being a part of that Munster game and the build-up and everyone turning up and just the atmosphere, it was just a huge occasion to be a part of.
“Earlier in the week, we went to the play, Stand Up and Fight, which recalled Munster’s historic win over the All Blacks. I’ll tell you what, in that last 10 minutes or so, we were really thinking these guys are going to make another play for us.
“It was an awesome occasion. We were just happy to come through. It was such a hard game. Everything was just going Munster’s way. When a team gets momentum from every play you start going: ‘It’s one of those games when it is not going to be our night.’ But a small moment, and it changes.
“The atmosphere was electric, what with the Kiwi Munster lads doing the Haka, especially with Dougie Howlett. I played against Dougie, with Dougie and I looked up to Dougie. Obviously, there were other boys there, Rua Tipoki [ and Lifeimi Mafi and Jeremy Manning] as well. I felt sorry for them in the end; I felt sorry for the Munster team, because of the amount of passion they put into that game. Seven years on, it is still clear in my mind, not just that last moment and the try, but the whole week was outstanding. I am pretty sure most of the boys will still say it was one of the top experiences in their career.”
Having won 68 caps for the All Blacks between 2003 and 2010, Rokocoko’s memories are immense, but after pulling on the black jersey, his other thrill is being honoured by the Barbarians.
“From the first time I got named for this team and until now, the feeling is the same. Aside from the All Blacks, I am sure the other players will agree, trying to make a national team, this is number two that you want to be a part of, there is so much history and so much legacy behind the Barbarians.
“When I was a kid I watched Barbarian videos which my uncle had, so to be a part of it again I am excited.”
Rokocoko made his name for New Zealand on the wing, but has now switched to outside centre, alongside South African Wynand Olivier, tonight.
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