All Blacks great Jerome Kaino – who is expected to announce his retirement soon – has included two South Africans on the list of five toughest opponents he has faced throughout his career.
The 38-year-old Kaino recently won the European Champions Cup with Toulouse and is expected to announce his retirement after the completion of the current French Top 14 season.
Kaino made 81 Test appearances for the All Blacks and is a two-time World Cup winner having been part of the dominant New Zealand side that won back-to-back tittles in 2011 and 2015.
He had previously confirmed his plans to call time on his career at the end of the 2020-21 European season and, with that period now fast approaching, Kaino has named the five toughest players he had played against, as published by Ruck.co.uk.
Kaino’s top-five toughest opponents:
1. Mako Vunipola (England)
‘Someone that kept on coming was Mako Vunipola. He has no hand brake, he just keeps on going and going,’ Kaino explained. ‘He loves to get the ball in his hand. To try to stand in front of him and get a shot on him is impossible. He’s so solid. He’s a brick of a man. He’d be up there as the toughest in the Tests that I played.’
2. Schalk Burger (South Africa)
‘He’s someone that ran at you full tilt from the first minute to the 80th. He didn’t stop running. He’s one man that I have enormous amount of respect for, just through the way he played, but also after the game he’d be the first one to come up to you and hand you a beer and just have a chat after a tough battle. He definitely sticks out for me.’
3. David Pocock (Australia)
‘He is just perfectly built for the role and when he locks himself on to a tackled player, there is no moving him.’
4. Bakkies Botha (South Africa)
‘Let’s just say he was able to keep the tradition going of the hardest of South African second rows.’
5. Maro Itoje (England)
‘Maro was pretty tough. He is a force of nature who never gives you a second break from the first minute until the last.’
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