5 Aug 2019

'He had great mana' - tributes to Sir Brian Lochore

12:52 pm on 5 August 2019

The 1987 world cup title will be remembered as one of Sir Brian Lochore's greatest achievements in rugby, but his work in conservation was just as influential off the pitch, former teammate Chris Laidlaw says.

Brian Lochore on the burst in a test against South Africa in 1970.

Brian Lochore on the burst in a test against South Africa in 1970. Photo: Photosport

Sir Brian, or BJ as he was affectionately known as by friends and the rugby fraternity, died on Saturday aged 78 after succumbing to cancer.

He captained the All Blacks for four years in the 1960's, going unbeaten until the 1970 tour of South Africa, and was then coach of the team when New Zealand won the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.

New Zealand teammate Chris Laidlaw told Morning Report Sir Brian epitomised what it was to be All Black.

"He wasn't an obtrusive kind of individual, he believed in leading by example," Laidlaw said.

"He was always calm, he was very easy to deal with when it came to tactics and deciding what we do next and he just provided a quiet inspiration that everyone tuned into and he's done that all his life really, he's done it in a variety of areas, for me that's what is the most memorable feature of his life.

"When somebody dies often there's a tendency to overplay their virtues and underplay some of the vices, he didn't have any vices as far as I could tell and I don't think he ever had any enemies and you can't say that about many people."

Laidlaw's sentiments were echoed by fellow teammate and Sir Brian's assistant at the 1987 world cup - Alex Wyllie.

"He brought teams together, he was there at a time when there was a bit of a disruption within New Zealand Rugby with the tour going to South Africa or being called off and another team going," Wyllie said.

"Then they came back and had to bring all the players back together, not everyone went and so therefore the players that didn't go.

'There was probably a wee bit of doubt about them from the others but he moulded them together as a team and went through to win the inaugural World Cup in 1987 so he did a marvellous job, but that was Brian, he was a very good leader, he wasn't that hard but he was firm, he had his own ways and that was the trait of the man."

John Hart

Former All Blacks coach John Hart. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Sir Brian's other assistant turned All Blacks head coach, John Hart, was a great mentor.

"He had a great mana with everyone, he walked into a room and he lit the room up, he was a huge man with great personality, he was very down to earth, a very grounded person and was respected by all.

"I don't think many people would ever say a bad word about Brian Lochore, he was a fantastic gentleman, he was a very good coach, he was a very good mentor to people and as Alex said, he had that ability to bring people together.

"People shouldn't underestimate the status of New Zealand Rugby after the 1986 Cavaliers tour leading into a World Cup in March. He has to take a lot of credit for the way that he blended those guys back together and brought a united force to Eden Park to win a world cup."

Beyond rugby, Sir Brian was a farmer who lived in Wairarapa, running a sheep and cattle farm in Eketahuna.

Laidlaw said Sir Brian was ahead of his time thinking about the impact he had on conservation.

"He's also one of those traditional farmers who evolved into something more than that because he understood that if you look after the land, the land will look after you and most farmers these days understand that fully but he actually went the extra mile.

"When he became involved with the QEII Trust where people could covenant land he became the kind of foil between the institution and the people who were thinking about it but maybe needed a bit of a nudge over the edge to effectively donate their land in perpetuity to biodiversity... this was, we're talking about 15 years ago, a fairly obscure kind of cause.

"He rang me a couple of times and said 'look I want to get in touch with some people, push them my way when you hear about them if they're a bit reluctant to yield up that half acre of Kahikatea' and so I would send him through details of who it was and he would get on the phone. Of course no one was going to turn him down no matter how reluctant they were.

"He believed in it, he was totally genuine and the stuff he did believe in he believed in," Laidlaw said.

Sir Brian is survived by his wife Pam, their children David, Joanne and Sandra, and their eight grandchildren.

The family have requested privacy but said details of his funeral would be released once finalised.