'It's been a hell of a journey' - Bundee Aki on his Ireland debut
Ireland centre Bundee Aki has said that it's been 'one a hell of a journey' to his Ireland debut but that it was a privilege to wear the Irish jersey for the first time against South Africa in Dublin.
Aki made a team high 17 tackles in the Irish midfield as Joe Schmidt's bullied their way to a 35-point win over a hapless Springboks side at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland smashed the previous 17-point deficit earned with a 32-15 win in 2006 as three tries in the last 20 minutes put a gloss on a hard-working effort from the hosts.
It was a long week for Aki, which was not made easier by a national debate over the merits of his selection, but the Connacht centre said that the support he received from his family and friends made the entire process more manageable.
"It's been a long journey for myself and my family, and my friends as well, but I thank the lord for blessing me for this game tonight," Aki told Irish Rugby TV after the game.
"I thank the brothers here for helping me out over the two weeks. It's been a hell of a journey, hell of a night.
"Putting on the Irish jersey, well a country's jersey, it's a privilege. You don't take anything for granted and I surely don't. Whatever jersey I wear, I always wear it with pride and I always be the best I can be.
"The best player, the best teammate I can be for the squad and it's a privilege for me to put on the Irish jersey. The amount of supporters, the amount of people that were texting me and supporting me throughout the week has been phenomenal so I can't thank everybody enough."
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Meanwhile South Africa's number eight Francois Louw branded his side's humiliating defeat by Ireland as one of the country's "worst".
The Springboks were handed a lesson by Joe Schmidt's side who dished out a record 35-point defeat at the Aviva.
"It's pretty much up there with the worst," Louw said.
"We have not done what we wanted to achieve today. We were chasing the game early on, a bit of ill-discipline put the Irish on the scoreboard and to be fair to them, they took massive advantage of that.
"You don't want to be chasing games like this. They were good tactically, they definitely kept us on the pump and got the result. In these conditions, the ball is going to be a bit slippery, and as an alternative it turned into a kick-chase kind of game.''