Rokocoko never dreamed of European success

Date published: May 12 2016

Joe Rokocoko never dreamed of preparing for a Champions Cup final when he joined Racing 92 in 2015 from the struggling Bayonne.

The Fijian-born winger amassed 68 caps for the All Blacks and scored over 40 tries for the two-time World Cup winners.

32-year-old Rokocoko, who made his professional debut in 2003 for the Blues, made over 90 appearances for the Auckland side which included a Super Rugby title.

The speedster and his former international team-mate, Dan Carter, have used their seven-year All Black relationship to good effect and have been key role players in breathing new life into an exciting Racing backline this season.

"It had been a while since I'd played with him with the All Blacks but I immediately saw the maturity of his game had developed since we had last played," Rokocoko told EPRC.

"The main thing with Dan coming over to France was how quickly he made the transition and how the game is played in the northern hemisphere and especially the Top 14.

"I've been here a few years with Bayonne before but Dan has slotted into the team and the group so quickly and got to grips with the game-plan."

Racing beat the three-time European champions, Toulon, in the quarter-final and defeated a spirited Leicester Tigers side in the semi-final a fortnight ago to set up a final against the defending Premiership champions, Saracens.

"It would be huge to win the biggest club trophy there is to win in Europe," added the wing.

"It's going to be a huge challenge and would be a huge honour to achieve something so big in my career. It's the silverware that we're all looking for."

Rokocoko could join an elite group of players who have won the Southern and Northern Hemisphere's most sought after club silverware.

Most Southern Hemisphere players take up lucrative contracts with Northern Hemisphere sides in a hope to finish off their playing careers in style.

"When I was at Bayonne a few years ago, I never thought I would be playing in the Champions Cup, let alone competing in the final. But this is the reason I came to Racing, to play in these big games. I could have decided to stay at Bayonne, sit-back and enjoy the sunset of my career. But my wife asked me if I was still ambitious and wanted to achieve and I realised I am still hungry to win trophies."

Players like World Cup winning Springbok lock Bakkies Botha and Australian utility back Matt Giteau have both lifted the Super Rugby and European Champions trophies in their careers.

Rokocoko isn't the only one who could be joining these players, Carter, Casey Laulala and prop Ben Tameifuna have all lifted the Super Rugby trophy with their respective franchises.

Carter would join an even smaller list of men to have won a Rugby World Cup as well.

The eight players who have completed the North / South double are as follows:
Rod Kafer (Brumbies 2001 / Leicester Tigers 2001)
Doug Howlett (Blues 2003 / Munster Rugby 2008)
Brad Thorn (Crusaders 2008 / Leinster Rugby 2012)
Bakkies Botha (Bulls 2007, 2009 / RC Toulon 2013, 2014, 2015)
Matt Giteau (Brumbies 2004 / RC Toulon 2013, 2014, 2015)
Danie Rossouw (Bulls 2007, 2009, 2010 / RC Toulon 2013, 2014) 
Bryan Habana (Bulls 2007, 2009 / RC Toulon 2014, 2015)
Ali Williams (Blues 2003 / Crusaders 2008 / RC Toulon 2014, 2015)