Sheep farmer and All Blacks legend

Born: 3 September, 1940;

Died: 3 August, 2019

BRIAN LOCHORE, who has died aged 78 after a short battle against bowel cancer, was an All Blacks rugby legend, as player, captain, coach, manager and selector, but, he was, in a long and distinguished life, more than merely a rugby player.

If his lifelong friend and team mate Sir Colin Meads, who died in 2017 was known around the world as “Pine Tree,” the fact that Lochore was known in New Zealand as “Kauri Tree,” the even-mightier tree which flourishes across the Land of the Long White Cloud, demonstrates his stature.

He played 68 times for the All Blacks, captaining the side on 46 occasions. Twenty-five of these games were full Tests, in an era when there was a lot less international rugby. He took over the captaincy from another legend, Sir John Graham, before passing it on to Meads.

Indeed, the litany of All Blacks captains in the 1960s and early 1970s is impressive, Wilson Whinerary, Graham, Lochore and Meads all went on to receive knighthoods.

Lochore, throughout his career, represented the tiny Wairarapa Union – just imagine a Forfar Athletic or Cowdenbeath player captaining the Scottish football team, to gain an example of what that meant. He first came to prominence playing for Wairarapa-Bush against the 1959 British Lions: Ken Scotland, Tony O'Reilly, Hughie McLeod to name but a few of those Lions, but, it wasn't until 1964 that he graduated to the full All Blacks side, as All Black number 637, winning his first cap against England, at Twickenham.

He led the AB to a series victory against a 1966 Lions side captained by Mike Campbell-Lammerton and including Jim Telfer, who was greatly impressed by Lochore and New Zealand rugby. He then led the ABs in an unbeaten tour of Canada, the UK and France in 1967. They won every international, but, were denied a Grand Slam by a foot and mouth outbreak which prevented them playing Ireland.

He retired in 1970, but, an injury-hit All Blacks side recalled him for the Third Test against the 1971 Lions. He famously got a telephone call on the Friday, asking him to come out of retirement and play. He agreed, left a note to his wife, Pam saying: “Off to play in Test tomorrow, will call later,”

Not match-sharp, and playing out of position at lock,he endured a torrid time at the hands of his immediate opponent, a young Scottish debutant named Gordon Brown; so, as one legend faded, another, that of “Broon From Troon” was born.

In retirement, he coached home-town team Masterton, then his beloved Wairarapa-Bush, as the Union was now known following an amalgamation with the neighbouring Bush Union. In 1983 he was elevated to the three-man All Blacks coaching/selection team, leading them to victory in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup.

Stepping down from hands-on coaching, he was Team Manager in South Africa for the 1995 World Cup, then a Selector for the 2011 World Cup, leaving him with a record of three World Cup Finals, winning two.

But, his interests went beyond rugby. He was heavily involved in conservation work, he was, for eight years from 2003 to 2011 chair of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust, a charitable body set-up in 1977: “to encourage and promote, for the benefit of New Zealand, the provision, protection, preservation and enhancement of open space."

QEII enables landowners to protect special features on their land through its open space covenants, partnering with private landowners to protect natural and cultural heritage sites on their land.

He was also on his farm outside Masterton, a prominent breeder of the Romney breed of sheep, the breed which is the backbone of New Zealand's important lamb meat and wool trade. As such he was frequently in-demand as a judge at livestock shows across New Zealand, while never wasting an opportunity to extol the virtues of the breed.

Lochore's rugby achievements saw him honoured by his country. He was made OBE following his retirement in 1970, then, in 1999, he was made a Knight Commander of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Finally, in 2007, he was inducted into the Order of New Zealand, his country's highest honour.

The Lochore Cup, is awarded each year to the winners of New Zealand's top domestic competition, the Heartland Championship, while he was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 1999.

Rugby was not his only sporting interest, he was a Wairarapa tennis representative from 1957 until 1961, before returning to represent his local province again in seniors play in 1979 and 1980. He later became something of a “bandit” on the golf course, where he was, according to playing partners and rivals, the master of “mind games” to give himself an advantage.

But, at heart, he was happiest as a shepherd, out on his horse and later his quad bike, with his dogs, caring for his flock.

Brian Lochore is survived by Lady Pam, son David, daughters Joanne and Sanmdra and eight grand-children.