Tributes are flowing after the death of Otago prop turned respected coach Steve Cumberland.
The man known fondly as "Cumby" died suddenly at the weekend in Japan, where he had coached for more than a decade after stints as an assistant with the Highlanders and Otago. He was 57.
Cumberland was a positive part of a lot of people's lives, former Otago team-mate and fellow Japan-based coach Greg Cooper said yesterday.
"He was an intelligent, caring and fiercely loyal man. I will miss him.
"His family was his life, but his friends were a part of his extended family."
Cooper and Cumberland first crossed paths in age grade rugby in the North Island, playing for Hawke's Bay and Manawatu respectively.
Cumberland's senior provincial career started with Manawatu — he played 25 games from 1985 to 1987 — before he headed south.
He played 81 games for a popular and entertaining Otago team from 1988 to 1993, an era capped by a breakthrough national championship title in 1991.
"The stories of Cumby's aggression and competitiveness are legendary," Cooper recalled.
"He was an Otago prop of the '80s and '90s — he had to be that way. On the field he was tough, and off it, if you crossed him and he thought you were in the wrong, you knew it."
Cooper, coaching the Mitsubishi Dynaboars, regularly spent time in Japan with Cumberland, who was forwards coach for the Kobe Steelers.
The Steelers play the Kubota Spears this weekend, and Spears assistant coach Alando Soakai was eager to have another catch-up with Cumberland.
Soakai, the former Highlanders and Otago flanker, always enjoyed reminiscing about Dunedin days with one of his mentors.
"Seeing one another always brought fond memories of our time in Otago and the Highlanders," Soakai said.
"I would always meet Cumby at halfway during warm-up to share our common connection."
Cumberland was a stalwart of the Southern club in Dunedin.
Long-serving Magpies volunteer Mike Reggett said Cumberland and his wife, Pam, were "awesome supporters" of Southern, King's High School and sport-playing sons Matt and Taylor.
"Cumby was there through good times and bad," Reggett said.
"He showed loyalty to his teams at all levels — club, Otago, Highlanders and Japan — and he made a mark as a scrum coach and mentor to many young rugby players.
"I will remember that loyalty, support and generosity."