After playing with and against childhood hero Bryan Habana, Wales winger Leigh Halfpenny is determined to emulate the South African's achievements.
Halfpenny made his international debut against Habana in last year’s autumn internationals but teamed up with him for the Barbarians’ Mastercard Trophy defeat of New Zealand at Twickenham in December.
There the Cardiff Blues star witnessed just how high Habana sets the bar as an international finisher as the Springbok speedster grabbed a stunning hat-trick of tries.
Already Habana’s try count stands at 36 scores in just 57 matches while Halfpenny’s other idol Shane Williams holds the Welsh record with 48 tries.
And Halfpenny admits the experience of rooming with Habana has just heightened his desire to etch his name alongside those greats.
He said: “I was a bit star-struck around Bryan Habana because I watched him growing up and hopefully one day I will be as big as him.
“Playing against Bryan in my first game for Wales was nerve-racking and exciting at the same time; to have been in the same team as him is just mind-blowing.
“I will remember this experience for the rest of my life especially rooming with him – I have just tried to learn as much as possible off him.
“Shane has been my role model for a long time and the last 12 months have just been incredible to play with him and Bryan – it is a dream come true.
“I used to watch them so to now be playing with some of them is just crazy but I’m enjoying every second of it and I want to achieve what they have in their careers.
“I would say I’m still a long way off being at the same standard as some of the top players. But if I keep on working hard and get the chance to play alongside and train with these players then it can only help.”
Despite ending on a high against the All Blacks, Halfpenny’s Baa Baas experience can’t mask a disappointing end to Wales’ autumn international campaign.
The 33-12 defeat to the Wallabies has let to many critics accusing Warren Gatland’s side of losing momentum since their 2008 Grand Slam triumph but Halfpenny says that result does not truly reflect where Wales truly are at.
He said: “We are making a lot of progress and I feel people sometimes don’t’ recognise that.
“We have some good young players coming through like Jon Davies and Sam Warburton and this gives us good strength in depth.
“When you integrate young players into a team it can take time but it is a really exciting moment for Welsh rugby and we are all looking forward to the Six Nations.”