He may have notched up a Rugby World Cup and a knighthood, but Sir Graham Henry still can't convince his 95-year-old mum to leave quake-devastated Christchurch.

"We've often asked her to come to Auckland and live with us. But she won't. She won't leave her friends, she won't leave what she knows," the former All Black coach told the Herald on a goodwill visit to his former hometown yesterday, during which he popped in on his mother, Ann.

She has lived through the thousands of quakes, and was recently on the sixth floor of Princess Margaret Hospital when there was a strong shake "and she certainly felt that one".

"She's been through two world wars and a depression, and she's been around a while. She's staunch. She's a tough old bird," Sir Graham said.


He joined the Mad Butcher, Sir Peter Leitch, in Christchurch to show their support for the emergency services.

Cheeky Sir Peter left the firefighters in no doubt about their esteemed company. "Just make sure you address him as sir," he told them, asking them to stand at attention as he saluted Sir Graham. "He's very, very touchy if you don't call him sir."

To which Sir Graham responded: "I'm learning from the senior sir here. And he's an excellent role model - most of the time."

Sir Graham found the most damaged areas "horrendous".

"I have just got so much respect for the people who have gone through this, and how they have handled it.

"There's a really staunch, strong mentality, and I think it comes through in their sporting teams ... this is a very special city.

"My gut feel is it will go from strength to strength."