All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's father, Des, was so highly regarded as a rugby mentor that his old club Marist twice managed to talk him out of retirement.

Des Hansen died in Christchurch today after suffering a recent stroke. He was 78.

The All Blacks paid tribute to their coach's father in a brief statement after training in Christchurch for their Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in Brisbane this weekend.

"The All Blacks family extends our deepest sympathy to Steve and his family at this very difficult time," team manager Darren Shand said.


"Steve and his family thank everyone for their messages of support and ask for privacy at this very challenging time. The All Blacks are continuing their preparation for their match against Australia, as Des Hansen would want us to do."

Former Marist club captain Terry McCormick remembers Des Hansen as a club stalwart with a passion for coaching and an ability to get the best out of his players.

"He didn't just coach rugby skills," Mr McCormick said. "His philosophy was teaching people how to think the game."

Mr Hansen coached son Steve at Marist and All Blacks defence coach Brian "Aussie" McLean along with many Canterbury players.

Mr McCormick said Des Hansen started coaching at Marist in the mid-1970s when he was the publican at the King George Hotel, a popular watering hole for many Marist players.

He was quickly elevated to the seniors, taking charge of the backs in 1979, with Murray Giera looking after the forwards. Giera stood down the following season and Hansen was joined by Vance Stewart from 1981 to 1984, when Hansen "retired" for the first time.

"In 1987, Des had his arm twisted to come back, taking over as forward coach for a year, with Wayne McWhirter coaching the backs. Des enlisted the help of Mike Cron (now All Blacks scrum coach) on scrummaging," Mr McCormick said.

He stepped down the following season, but "had his arm twisted again" to return to the forward coaching role with Kevin Milne taking the backs for the 1991 and 1992 seasons.

"Even though he wasn't coaching in those middle years he still had a huge influence," Mr McCormick said.

"He could relate to people at either end of the scale," he said. "He was an outstanding individual as well as an outstanding coach."

Des Hansen was also well-known in horse racing circles as an owner and trainer.

Originally from a farming family in Mosgiel, Hansen owned a number of winners over the years, a pastime he shared with Steve, long-time friend and Riccarton horse trainer Les Didham said.

"He was a real racing enthusiast, but his first love was rugby," Mr Didham said.

"He helped a lot of people over the years and hundred sought his advice."

Canterbury Rugby Football Union chief executive Hamish Riach paid tribute to Des Hansen's "huge influence" in the sport.

"Des was a wonderful rugby man who will be sorely missed within rugby circles here in Canterbury especially," Mr Riach said.

"His influence was understated in public, but very much appreciated within the rugby fraternity."