Rugby: Hansen's tearful farewell

By Nick Tolerton

The rugby community in Christchurch turned out to support Steve Hansen (centre) at the funeral, delayed until after Saturday's test in Brisbane.
The rugby community in Christchurch turned out to support Steve Hansen (centre) at the funeral, delayed until after Saturday's test in Brisbane.

It takes a lot to rock All Black coach Steve Hansen. But the funeral yesterday of his father Des Hansen - delayed until after Saturday's test against the Wallabies in Brisbane - did that.

A tearful Hansen said his father, a successful coach of Marist senior rugby in Christchurch in the 1980s, was a tough character.

"I was shocked the first time I saw him cry, at his own father's funeral, because I thought he was the tough-est guy alive."

Yesterday, Steve Hansen was in the same position, as the Canterbury rugby community turned out to support him and his two brothers and sister at Burnside's Christ the King Catholic church.

Hansen said his father was a mentor to a lot of players and coaches. "He was innovative in his rugby and introduced a defensive system ... and a back attack alignment that is still being used today."

As well as being passionate about rugby, his father was a horse racing trainer, breeder, and owner, and "a crafty punter", he said.

Des Hansen, who died last week aged 78, was born in Balclutha and grew up in Clinton, before moving to Mosgiel and then Christchurch.

"On the way he touched a lot of people," Steve Hansen said. "There are not many great people in life and very few special but, dad, you were one. He was happier talking about things he enjoyed than complaining about things he didn't have."

He always had a message if people were prepared to listen, Hansen said, and he challenged people to think.

He recalled when his father trained racehorses, he cut off his toe on the door of the float. The toe was stitched back on, and two weeks later his father cut a hole in his gumboot so he could stack hay for two days.

He showed similar toughness when he came home to find a party his daughter had organised had got out of hand with gatecrashers. He ordered the gatecrashers out, and when one youth was silly enough to ask Hansen senior who the hell he was, he fired a shot from his gun to hurry them along, and then directed a final blast at the car of the youth who had cheeked him.

His father also loved tug-of-war and started coaching it. On one occasion his teeth fell out in the excitment and then he stood on the dentures and smashed them.

Hansen also spoke of his father's story-telling ability and great one-liners. If he wasn't watching Trackside, he loved to watch Westerns and read Western novels, and also loved his garden.

- APNZ

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