Former All Black and rubbish collector Tom Lister has died in Timaru, after a short battle with cancer, aged 73.

Lister was South Canterbury's most-capped All Black, logging 26 games and eight tests at flanker from 1968-71, and was a driving force behind the province's Ranfurly Shield win in 1974.

He was renowned for being a tough customer on the field and extremely fit, a legacy of his days working on a rubbish truck in Wellington.

Born in Ashburton, Lister attended Waitaki Boys High School and debuted for South Canterbury in 1962, where he is still the youngest forward ever selected for the province at 18 years, eight months and nine days.

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He moved to Wellington in 1965 to improve his chances of All Black selection and was finally named against Australia in 1968 and ended his international career with a try against the 1971 British Lions.

Lister might have played more tests for New Zealand, but was up against some of our greatest All Blacks - Brian Lochore, Kel Tremain, Waka Nathan, Ian Kirkpatrick and Alex Wyllie - for the loose forward positions.

He retired in 1972, but returned the following year and was part of the successful Ranfurly Shield challenge against Marlborough, then two defences against North Otago (won 9-3) and Wellington (lost 9-3).

Lister, who was named South Canterbury Sportsperson of the Year in 1969, retired for good after the 1974 season, having played 40 games for Wellington and 72 for the green-and-blacks.

He was a meat worker, fisherman and then a farmer later in life.

Young brother John was one of New Zealand's top professional golfers through the 1970s and early 1980s, winning three NZ PGA Championship titles.