Brodie Retallick relishing New Zealand's World Cup charge
When Brodie Retallick watched the 2011 World Cup final at his local fire station, little did he realise that four years on he would ignite New Zealand's title defence.
Retallick lit the fuse on the All Blacks' march towards another World Cup final on Saturday night, steaming in for the first score in New Zealand's 62-13 thrashing of France in Cardiff.
The 24-year-old's charge-down finish was eclipsed by Julian Savea's stunning hat-trick in the nine-try demolition of Les Bleus - but without his early strong-arm tactics, New Zealand may never have scaled such heights.
Now the All Blacks must face South Africa in the last four as they crank up their quest to make history by retaining the Webb Ellis Cup.
"It's pretty awesome to play in a quarter-final and earn the right to go and play in a semi-final," said Retallick.
"Hopefully we can push on from there but we need to get our game right and build well so we can be ready for next week.
"I never thought four years ago watching the 2011 final that I could be here at this point, not at all.
"I wasn't even playing Super Rugby then so it hadn't even crossed my mind."
New Zealand saw off France 8-7 at Auckland's Eden Park to claim their second World Cup title four years ago, with Retallick watching in front of a big screen at Havelock North Fire Station in Hawke's Bay.
His transformation from rangy youngster to the world's finest lock has been little short of remarkable.
When not thundering into collisions, the Chiefs' second row is standing flat at first-receiver, bossing phase play as a terrifying hybrid tight-five fly-half.
England tried to copy New Zealand's tactic of sending locks into the back-line mixer, and failed.
Retallick pulls off Steve Hansen's master-stroke game-plan with worrying ease.
Now the All Blacks must roll up collective sleeves for another dogfight with the ever-combative Springboks.
South Africa edged out Wales 23-19 at Twickenham on Saturday to book their slot in the final four.
Heyneke Meyer's men were as stunned as the rest of the world in pool-stage defeat to Japan, but have rebuilt steadily since.
No side has ever won the World Cup after a defeat in the group matches, but Retallick rejected suggestions the Springboks are not the force of yesteryear.
"It's a semi-final of the World Cup, everyone's going to turn up with their A-game, so I don't think they're vulnerable at all," said Retallick.
"No one wants to lose, so I'm sure they're going to turn up with their best game.
"I like to get out there into the line when I can, but I also like to mix it with the big boys up close.
"It's nice to get involved out there, getting your hands on the ball.
"It's something we've been doing for a wee while, and you get more comfortable the longer you do it.
"You just work to get better at it."