Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry has paid tribute to his friend and colleague Sir Brian Lochore, who died on Saturday after a battle with bowel cancer.
Lochore was one of the greatest players to wear the All Blacks jersey, playing 25 tests (68 matches) for New Zealand at No 8 and coaching the side to the 1987 Rugby World Cup title.
Henry was an All Blacks selector alongside Lochore and mourned the loss of 'New Zealand's huge Kauri tree'.
"Obviously he was one of the greats," Henry told Jim Kayes on Radio Sport. "Not only a great player but a great man, so it's very sad. He was a fabulous role model for everybody because he epitomised what we were trying to achieve; humble guys all striving to get better. He coined the phrase 'better people make better All Blacks', and he lived that.
"He was just one of those great All Blacks captains who had presence, could play well. Colin Meads played with him and I remember him saying "you just wanted to play for BJ."
"He had the ability to galvanise people and play for a cause, because they didn't want to let him down. Obviously he had a lot of knowledge about the game, he played at the highest level he'd managed and coached for a long time, so he had all the knowledge.
"But sometimes knowledge isn't enough, you've got to have respect and he had huge respect.
"For us, we were trying to produce a group of guys who were self-responsible, and would take leadership and ownership of the All Blacks and he was the man who had did it 15 years ago. He was just a great example to these young guys.
"We've lost a huge Kauri tree in New Zealand."
Lochore's wife, Lady Pam and the couple's three children said they were mourning, but relieved his suffering had ended. They wanted to express their gratitude for the care and support the family has received since Lochore's diagnosis.
Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson today acknowledged the passing of Lochore at the age of 78.
"Sir Brian is one of the most admired figures in New Zealand and world rugby, having achieved fame and respect as a player, captain, and later as a coach, manager and selector," Robertson said.
"He first became a star lock for Masterton and Wairarapa, and his legacy lives on in domestic rugby each year with the Lochore Cup.
"Of course it was in his 68 games for the All Blacks – 46 of them as Captain – where he cemented his place in international rugby history.
"Among his many well deserved honours was becoming an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby upon his retirement from the All Blacks in 1970."
Sir Brian led the All Blacks to a 4-0 home series defeat of the Lions in 1966. Under his leadership, the following year they went undefeated in 24 games on a tour of Great Britain, France and Canada, including tests against England, Wales, Scotland and France.
"Sir Brian's involvement in our national game did not end with his playing days. He coached Masterton and Wairarapa-Bush before guiding the All Blacks to win the inaugural Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 1987. He was also our Campaign Manager at the 1995 World Cup, and a selector when we won the Cup for a second time in 2011," Grant Robertson says.
"However, what's most impressive is how far his reach extended beyond rugby. The many national and community roles he held include former chairman of the Hillary Commission for Sport, and he was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport and the community in 1999."
"In 2007, he was fittingly inducted into the Order of New Zealand, our country's highest honour. He was the quintessential New Zealand sportsman, and he will be dearly missed. I would like to send my condolences to his wife Pam and the rest of the Lochore family at this time."
Born in Masterton on September 3, 1940, Lochore was synonymous with the Wairarapa. He made his debut for Wairarapa in 1959 and played all his provincial rugby for the small union.
That year he was included in a combined Wairarapa-Bush team (the two unions did not formally merge until 1971) to face a Lions team that included the likes of Tony O'Reilly and Peter Jackson.
The Wairarapa Times-Age lauded his performance, describing him as "outstanding, whether tackling, pursuing the loose ball or lending support in tight play".
His All Blacks test debut came at No 8 in January 1964 against England in London. Lochore was credited with bringing a new dynamic to the role of No 8 - with his corner-flagging, aerial work and unstinting physical onslaught.
His leadership qualities were quickly identified. He was named captain of the All Blacks in 1966 and held the role until his retirement in 1970. Lochore led the 1967 All Blacks to an unbeaten tour of Britain, France and Canada with test wins over England, Wales, France and Scotland.
That team, containing legendary names like Colin Meads, Kel Tremain, Waka Nathan, Ken Gray and Fergie McCormick, is regarded as one of the great sides in All Black history and would have surely become the first All Black side to win the coveted Grand Slam were it not for an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that prevented them travelling to Ireland.
At age 30 he famously returned for one test in 1971 against the British Lions to help out an injury-struck side. As legend has it, he packed a bag and jumped into his Land rover to catch the 2pm Masterton-Wellington train, having time only to write the following note to wife Pam: "Gone to Wellington, playing test tomorrow. Will ring you later."
The match went badly, but Lochore's economy with words became famous in the aftermath.
He remained a towering figure in rugby after his playing days giving more than 50 years of service to New Zealand Rugby.