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A Super Rugby title, an All Black jersey and now possibly a ticket to the Rugby World Cup. Lima Sopoaga is having a heck of a year.
The Highlanders first five-eighth made an excellent test debut in South Africa yesterday as he helped the All Blacks beat the Springboks 27-20 at one of the sport's most intimidating venues, Ellis Park in Johnannesburg.
Sopoaga kicked a vital conversion, landed a penalty on fulltime and produced a sizzling run and clever pass to set up Highlanders team-mate Ben Smith for a try.
He called his experience ''unbelievable'' and won rave reviews from the two most important men in the All Blacks.
''He did extremely well,'' captain Richie McCaw said. ''He kept his cool and he looked like he had been there for a while. I am very happy for the man.''
All Black coach Steve Hansen said Sopoaga ''showed a lot of courage'' to land two crucial kicks after missing a couple of attempts at goal.
Sopoaga's efforts for the championship winning Highlanders and his composed debut could lead to a World Cup spot.
Dan Carter is not what he was, Beauden Barrett has been up and down, Colin Slade has not nailed down a test jersey, and Aaron Cruden is injured.
''We are in a tough situation,'' Hansen said, referring to his selection quandary at No 10.
''We have got four very good five eighths and another one injured. We will have to make some tough decisions.''