Rugby has lost its greatest ever superstar. Jonah Lomu, the legendary New Zealand winger has died unexpectedly aged 40 battling a rare kidney disease on Wednesday morning.
Lomu arrived in Auckland on Tuesday night from England where he had been working at the Rugby World Cup as an ambassador for sponsors Heineken. He is survived by his wife Nadene and sons Brayley, six, and Dhyreille, five.
Lomu entered the global stage at the 1995 World Cup as a 19 year old who scored seven tries in four matches in that tournament, trampled over a number of England players including Mike Catt and Tony Underwood and helped New Zealand reach the final but eventually lost to the hosts South Africa.
Lomu retired from playing scene in 2002 with 63 Test caps and 37 Test tries to his name.
Since 2002 he had been suffering from health issues due to a rare kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2004 and had been on dialysis treatment for the last 10 years.
Lomu posted series of pictures on his Twitter profile from Dubai on November 15 where he had pulled a brief stopover on his way home to New Zealand from England. He tweeted: “Night out in Dubai with my great friend and brother thank you for looking after me and my family.”
Confirming the sad demise of Lomu, former All Blacks doctor John Mayhew said: “On behalf of the Lomu family, I can confirm that Jonah Lomu died this morning, most probably about 8 or 9 this morning.”
“The family are obviously devastated, as are friends and acquaintances.”
“The family have requested privacy at this stage, they are obviously going through a terrible time.”
“It was totally unexpected. Jonah and his family arrived back from the United Kingdom last night and he suddenly died this morning.”
New Zealand Rugy CEO Steve Tew said: “We’re all shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of Jonah Lomu.”
“We’re lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah’s family.”
“Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world.”
Sport’s big names took to social media to express their grief and pay tributes.
Former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the @JONAHTALILOMU family tonight. A very special person. @AllBlacks.”
Current All Blacks favourite Dan Carter tweeted: “I still can’t believe the sad news. Love & thoughts go out to Jonahs family #RIPJonah.”
“Devastated the greatest ever has passed away! The worlds in mourning for such an amazing talent yet genuine & humble human. R.I.P Jonah Lomu” – Australian international James O’Connor.
“He was to me the guy who changed the sport forever, an unbelievable machine on the pitch and a superb guy off it, the guy who could dominate whatever era of rugby history he was put in”- former England rugby captain Mike Tindall.
Athletes from around the globe paid their respects to Lomu.
“Very sad news about Jonah Lomu, such an inspirational sportsman on and off the field” – English sprinter Andrew Pozzi.
“Gutted to hear the passing of @JONAHTALILOMU a sporting legend gone too soon!” – England and Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland.
New Zealand prime minister John Key also tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of Jonah Lomu’s unexpected passing this morning. The thoughts of the entire country are with his family.”