New Zealand captain Tana Umaga considers the All-Blacks’ success in this year’s Tri-Nations to be one of the highlights of his international career to date.
Coming back from an opening-day defeat to holders South Africa, Umaga and his side got their revenge over the Springboks in Dunedin between exciting victories over great rivals Australia.
And after taking the title with their 34-24 win over the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday, Umaga said his nation’s sixth Tri-Nations crown in 10 years – and his first as captain – approached the zenith of his All Black tenure.
"South Africa were very competitive this year and even though Australia had their injury problems they were still very competitive," Umaga told The Dominion Post.
"After I’ve had a bit of sleep I’ll be able to reflect back on what this campaign has really meant to me.
"It’ll be up there, if not the best thing I’ve done in the black jersey."
Another All Black on cloud nine was Auckland winger Doug Howlett, who justified his recall with a hat-trick which took him to 39 international tries – third in New Zealand’s all-time list behind Christian Cullen (46) and Jeff Wilson (44).
But Howlett admitted this year’s Bledisloe, Tri-Nations and British & Irish Lions tour victories were only a precursor to the 2007 World Cup.
"The ultimate goal obviously is the 2007 World Cup, everything’s geared towards that," he said.
"We’re getting a huge group of players now. This was another step on that long ladder."