The Dominion Post
The right man for any job
LOCHORE’S INFLUENCE ON ALL BLACKS WAS WIDESPREAD
Sir Brian Lochore hit the bullseye when he delivered a message to the All Blacks during the inaugural World Cup in 1987.
‘‘We are the world champions,’’ All Blacks coach Lochore said. ‘‘We’ve got 100 years of history to back that and we don’t need a World Cup to say we are champions. But if we lose the first one, then we’ve ruined 100 years of tradition.’’
Few, if any, could have disputed the Wairarapa farmer’s right to make his impassioned speech during the tournament in New Zealand and Australia.
A highly respected former All Blacks captain and No 8 who played 25 tests and 43 games for the side between 1963 and 1971, Lochore knew what it was like to carry the burden of expectation prior to important matches.
Lochore was a tough man, but he was also fair. He demanded the best from himself, and expected others to follow.
He was the right man to take charge of the All Blacks during the World Cup in 1987, and in doing so helped broker a peace accord with sections of society who felt the game had let them down.
It was wing John Kirwan, having been interviewed for the book Behind the Silver Fern, who revealed the details of Lochore’s impassioned speech to his players. And it certainty got their attention.
Lochore, who became an All Blacks selector in 1985 and was appointed coach in 1986, had to guide the team through one of the most tumultuous periods in the game’s history in New Zealand during his two years in charge.
A rebel tour of South Africa by the majority of the All Blacks was followed by the news that the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (as it was then known) had banned the players who toured the Republic for two tests in 1986.
Most were back in the fold as the All Blacks assembled ahead of the global tournament in 1987, and although the senior players didn’t exactly rejoice when told halfback David Kirk would replace injured squad skipper Andy Dalton the squad was united in its goal of claiming the Webb Ellis Cup.
The fact the All Blacks did so with a game plan that involved attractive running rugby also helped draw back the fans.
It was while the squad was in camp in Wellington that Lochore noticed the senior players weren’t wearing their All Blacks gear when leaving the hotel.
‘‘The players were afraid of being abused or accosted, which is what the All Blacks had suffered through the early ‘80s,’’ Lochore told Inside the Cup author Phil Gifford. ‘‘People would come and stand right in front of you and abuse the hell out of you.’’
So Lochore hatched a plan to take the squad out of the big smoke and bus them to the Tuhirangi rugby club, about 30km from Martinborough in the Wairarapa.
The idea was to let the players know that people in the heartland of New Zealand still cared about the All Blacks.
A bus ride to Pirinoa resulted in the vehicle stopping at the footy club, where the squad was split up so they could be billeted out to stay with the locals for a night.
The All Blacks discovered another side of New Zealand, and appreciated that support as they rumbled through the tournament unbeaten.
Having Alex Wyllie and John Hart, who had been in charge of the powerful Canterbury and Auckland provincial teams, as his assistants helped Lochore come up with a team that was rock solid in the set pieces and able to play with pace and exploit space.
Everything was new to the All Blacks. They had never had to prepare, or play, in sudden-death games; ahead of the quarterfinal against Scotland in Christchurch the media were suggesting the team from the northern hemisphere would have the edge in the scrums.
Before the quarterfinal, Lochore walked into the changing shed and held two sets of air tickets in his hands.
‘‘Lose on Saturday, here’s your tickets home, and in this hand are tickets to Brisbane (for the semifinal) – 100 years of tradition.’’ He then threw the tickets into the air.
The All Blacks thumped Scotland 30-3, belted Wales 49-6 in the semifinal and beat France 29-9 in the final.
Lochore knew he had to keep the same combinations throughout the playoffs; he had the respect of the players, and was a great motivator. Right man, right place.
He ended his term in charge of the All Blacks when they beat the Wallabies 30-16 in Sydney the following month and wrenched back the Bledisloe Cup.
That wasn’t the end of Lochore’s involvement with the All Blacks.
In 1995 he was appointed as the squad’s campaign manager for the World Cup in South Africa, and later worked as an advisor at the 2007 tournament in France.
Brian James Lochore was born in Masterton in 1940 and although a talented tennis player, he was good enough to win the Wairarapa junior title on four successive occasions, rugby became his sporting passion.
After attending Wairarapa College he was promoted into the senior Masterton club team at 18. This was quickly followed by promotion into the Wairarapa rep team – the first of 70 appearances for the province.
In 1963 Lochore was selected in the All Blacks squad to tour Great Britain and Ireland, making his debut at No 8 – he had always played flanker previously – against Oxford University.
It was to lead to a long and distinguished career in the All Blacks jersey, including 18 tests as captain.
In 1966 new coach Fred Allen made a significant decision ahead of the series against the touring British and Irish Lions; he wanted Lochore to be his captain ahead of senior players Colin Meads and Kel Tremain.
The All Blacks won the series 4-0 and Lochore was on his way to becoming one of the greats of the game. Under his leadership the All Blacks won 47 matches without defeat, before losing to South Africa in the first test on the tour of the republic in 1970. The series was lost 3-1.
Back home Lochore announced his retirement.
He answered an SOS from All Blacks coach Ivan Vadanovich to play the third test against the British and Irish Lions in Wellington. The Lions won 13-3 and Lochore went home to the farm and into retirement for good.
Even after he stopped coaching, Lochore had more to offer.
A highly respected member of the farming community, Lochore also served a term as chairman of the national sports funding organisation, the Hillary Commission.
In 1999 his contribution to New Zealand across many fields was acknowledged when he was knighted and he also received the country’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand in 2007.
He also received the International Rugby Board’s (now World Rugby) award for distinguished service in 2006.
Lochore lost his battle with cancer on August 3. He was 78.
‘‘Lochore was a tough man, but he was also fair. He demanded the best from himself, and expected others to follow.’’
Former All Blacks team-mates have described Sir Brian Lochore as a humble, mild-mannered, caring, and inspiring man.
Lochore died on Saturday night, aged 78, after losing his battle with bowel cancer.
He was a monumental figure in rugby, and during his 68 matches (25 tests) for New Zealand between 1964 and 1971 he left a lasting legacy, particularly with his captaincy style.
Lochore led the men in black 46 times (18 tests) and for some of his closest comrades, they couldn’t have asked for a better person to be steering the ship.
Ian Kirkpatrick, who played in the backrow with Lochore in the first half of his 1967-77 All Blacks career, remained good mates with him till the end.
‘‘BJ was just a great all-round guy,’’ Kirkpatrick told Stuff. ‘‘And that’s why everyone loved him. He was pretty modest, and that made him an even better guy. He’s just been a great New Zealander.’’
Kirkpatrick had never met Lochore until he was thrust into marking him, with the No 8s squaring off then both getting the nod for the 1967 tour to Britain, France and Canada.
‘‘So I knew that on that tour when I was picked as a No 8 that I wasn’t going to play too many games,’’ Kirkpatrick said. ‘‘And I wasn’t worried about that, I just thought ‘I’m with these guys’. BJ was outstanding to me.
‘‘He was a terrific captain. He just had that way with new guys to put them at ease – ‘don’t worry too much, just play your own game’ type of thing. He was very reassuring.’’
Ironically, it was a Lochore injury, and new substitution rules, which saw Kirkpatrick earn his second test, becoming the first All Blacks replacement player and scoring a hat-trick of tries in the 27-11 win over Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
When Lochore returned to the fold a few tests later, Kirkpatrick shifted to blindside flanker for the rest of his career, and was able to marvel first-hand at the work of his skipper.
‘‘He was a very clever, intelligent rugby player. He’d say himself that he probably wasn’t one of the quickest, but certainly his anticipation and general summing up of the game was outstanding.’’
Fellow team-mate Chris Laidlaw, who wore the black jersey as a halfback from 1963-70, noted Lochore’s strong captaincy meant to some extent he was under-rated as a player at times.
‘‘He was the complete package when it came to No 8,’’ Laidlaw
‘‘He just had that way with new guys to put them at ease.’’ Ian Kirkpatrick
‘‘He was a leader that inspired other people by his own example.’’ Chris Laidlaw
‘‘He had the ability to galvanise people and play for a cause.’’ Sir Graham Henry
told Stuff. ‘‘He had real mobility, he was enormously strong, and he had wonderful ball-handling skills, which was unusual in the 1960s. Now it’s the norm, but in those days forwards weren’t expected to do very much except get the ball and blast ahead and deliver it.’’
There was even a kicking