35 Frank Bunce [1992-1997] CAPS 55
Frank Bunce had been around the provincial rugby scene for a long time before he broke into the test game.
His route to test football actually came through Samoa when he was picked as part of their hugely successful 1991 World Cup squad.
And it was from there, back in the day when players could switch international allegiance, that Bunce earned his All Blacks selection.
He was 30 years old when he won his first All Blacks cap and if that wasn’t enough to raise a few eyebrows, Bunce became better and better as he aged into his mid-thirties.
He formed one of the best All Blacks midfield combinations of all time with Walter Little, which would have a huge influence on the All Blacks being so successful in 1996 and 1997.
Bunce was rugged, tough, accurate and smart. He could run and pass, and his defence was colossal.
In that two year period the All Blacks only lost one game and they played incredible attacking football – much of which was aided by the distribution and decision-making of Bunce, who was able to do so much to ignite a backline that included Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu and Je Wilson.
But perhaps his bigger influence was to kill the assumption that players are on the decline once they reach their thirties.
Bunce changed a few attitudes about older players – made plenty of coaches alter their thinking about veterans and their potential value and paved the way for other 30-somethings to be given a fair crack at selection.
OLD NEWS Frank Bunce showed veterans can cut it at the highest level.