South African rugby stars have come out in praise of former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, describing him as one of the legends of the game.
Umaga announced his retirement from international rugby on Tuesday after a magnificent 2005 where his side whitewashed the British & Irish Lions 3-0, took the Tri-Nations title and won the Grand Slam, and the Springbok players were quick to hail his achievements.
Bok captain John Smit said: "I had the honour of being in the same line-up (tsunami relief fund-raiser) and it was only then that I learned his priceless value as a player and person. His leadership speaks for itself when you see how humbly he conducted himself in such a high-profile position," he told the Cape Times.
"Just the other day he showed me and others the true meaning of humility in an interview at the IRB awards where he had to accept his team’s award for 2005.
"The question posed to him was how he felt about talk of him retiring from international rugby when he was so close to 100 caps.
"His response was simple, yet immense: ‘I’m just glad I could have one cap’."
"As an opponent, he would be the talking point of every team’s pre-game analysis and be an individual that every team would have to constantly monitor. In life there is a saying: ‘walk the walk or talk the talk’. I have only ever seen Tana doing the walking."
South Africa centre De Wet Barry believes it was definitely the right time to leave.
"It’s great to be able to go on such a high note. I believe he still had a few Tests in him, but he’s leaving after a series win over the Lions, a Tri-Nations win and a Grand Slam," he said.
"He was one of the best and had everything…pace, power and ball skills. The All Blacks will miss his presence, but they aren’t exactly short of depth."
The only loss the All Blacks captain had in 2006 was against the Springboks in Cape Town.