Highlanders flyhalf Josh Ioane has been a sensation since hitting the Super Rugby scene in 2018, stepping up to fill the first five role once occupied by Liam Sopoaga until he made the high profile move to join Wasps in the Premiership.

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The flyhalf detailed his experiences with the hyper-competitive Sopoaga as a rookie joining the Highlanders camp as an injury cover when he was a not-so-known prospect coming out of Kings College in Auckland on this week’s Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

In the professional environment, the trainings can become super competitive and mini-skill games are often are played with small bets to increase the stakes. Ioane explained how these situations unfold within position groups.

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“One thing at the Landers at the end of training, we’ll do one-on-one within your position. It just brings out that competition, that competitive edge. One training I’ll have to kick against Mitchy [Hunt] or Bryn [Gatland], or Ash [Dixon] will have to throw against Coltsy [Coltman],” Ioane explained.

“The old boys definitively don’t like the young boys getting those ones.

Josh Ioane would compete with Lima Sopoaga in goal kicking challenges that became unbearable if he lost, with the experienced All Black making it known to the younger challenger he had lost.

“Lima definitely helped me with my goal kicking. But we were versing each other nearly every day, or at least every week. If you lost to him… you’d almost rather miss a kick in a game than lose to Lima because his chat after… I’d go home and just be like ‘man, I want to smack him.'”

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“One training, it came down to the last kick between me and Lima, I had to get it to tie it.

“This was after training, he gets all boys, ‘boys, boys, come look at Josh miss, come look at Josh miss’. So all the older boys start running over, you know Elliot Dixon, they want to put this pressure on this young buck that’s just come in.

“And then Lima’s yelling, ‘Azza, did you really sign this guy, he can’t even kick?’.

“I don’t think I hit that kick, I was like ‘ohhh’, it was hard to make. Those sort of things, those are like game day actions. At the time, it’s a lot of pressure but it makes you better for the game.

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When Ioane first got the chance to train with the Highlanders as an injury replacement for a week, he wanted to make the most of it and sought out Sopoaga to seek his advice on how to learn his trade as a goal kicker.

“When I first came in with the Highlanders as an injury replacement I thought I’d only be in for a week. I really wanted to learn how to goal kick, so for that week I learnt, I went to Lima and said ‘can you teach me how to kick?’

“He taught me, gave me a few things, and then the very first competition we had, the same day I asked him, I won the first one.

“I was a little bit embarrassed because I didn’t really know him and he had just given me all this help and I won. Then he wouldn’t let me leave, he was like ‘nah, double or nothing’ for a coffee and a muffin, and I won again.

“I didn’t want to win. At this stage, I didn’t want to win. I didn’t know him and he’d given me all these tips and I won again I was like ‘oh no’.”

“The next day he rocks in, he gives me a coffee and a muffin, and he’s like ‘we’re going again today’. I think he won the next 15, 16 competitions.

“He’s just in your ear, he’ll get his phone out and video you, he’s a sore loser, I’ll tell you that!”

 

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