WELLINGTON, Aug. 4 (Reuters) – New Zealand rugby was in mourning Sunday after All Blacks great Brian Lochore died of cancer aged 78 years.
Lochore, who captained New Zealand in 18 tries in their golden era in the 1960s and coached the All Blacks to the inaugural World Cup in 1987, died on Saturday, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said in a statement.
"It is with great sadness and sadness that we announce that Sir Brian succumbed to his battle with cancer," said NZR chief executive Steve Tew.
"We have lost a true legend of our country, a relentless figure in the field and a highly respected figure from there. His family has lost a devoted husband, father and grandfather and, for many of us, a great friend.
"It is not too loud to say that Sir Brian Lochore was the savior of New Zealand rugby on several occasions and many of us have lost a great friend."
Lochore had never played number eight until being selected for the New Zealand tour in 1963-64, but he did set his own position in 68 games in the famous black shirt, 25 of them testing.
He was named captain of the team in 1966 by coach Fred Allen in front of more experienced players like Colin Meads and Kel Tremain and led the team through a long undefeated run as they were considered the unofficial world champions.
Lochore retired in 1970 after a tour of South Africa, but was called back to an injury-ravaged side in the 1971 Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
He answered the call, of course, and of course famously made a note to his wife in their refrigerator, saying he "traveled to Wellington playing the test tomorrow".
After provincial coaching success, he was named an All Blacks voter in 1983 and then coach from 1985-87, dealing with the decline of a 1986 rebel tour in South Africa.
He retired after the All Blacks won the New Zealand and Australia World Cup in 1987, but returned to the national selection panel in 2004 at the request of coach Graham Henry.
His rugby career was interwoven with fellow All Blacks great Colin Meads, who died in 2017 of pancreatic cancer, and New Zealand's amateur provincial team is now competing for the Meads and Lochore Cups.
Lochore was knighted by the New Zealand government in 1999 for community and sport services, and NZR revealed in June this year that he had been diagnosed with bowel cancer. (Writing by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Rory Carroll)