Ivan’s Angle: The Gentleman All Black

To those who knew him, Wairarapa farmer Sir Brian Lochore will always be known as The Gentleman All Black Captain.

For the many thousands his life touched, he will be remembered as a friend, even if their acquaintance was brief. Such was his charisma and gentle, genuine manner.

A humble, modest man with a firm handshake, Lochore had time for everyone. And the New Zealand rugby public loved him for it.

I hadn’t heard of him until listening to an All Black trial radio broadcast in the 1960s when a vocal bunch of Wairarapa supporters could be heard chanting his name above the call of the announcer.

Sir Brian Lochore had time for everyone. And the New Zealand rugby public loved him for it. Photo NZ Herald via AP

While fans debated whether King County’s Colin Meads or Hawkes Bay’s Kel Tremain should take over the All Blacks captaincy following the retirement of Wilson Whineray, coach Fred Allen recognised something special in Lochore as a leader of men.

So it was him whom he chose in 1966. And the men he led until 1970 were glad of it.

An exceptional No 8, Lochore was an outstanding corner flagger and could handle high kicks with the aplomb of a champion fullback. But it was his leadership that stood him apart in 68 games for New Zealand that included 25 tests.

He skippered 18 of those, winning 15.

He also coached the All Blacks from 1985-87, including the 1987 World Cup triumph when Alex Wyllie and John Hart were his assistants. And such was his mana that Laurie Mains had him as his campaign manager when the All Blacks were beaten by the Springboks in extra time at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.

Gone but not forgotten, his legend will live on while rugby continues to be played in New Zealand.

Meanwhile ladies golf has found a bright new star in smiling Japanese star Hinako Shibuno who clinched the British Open with a glorious 18-foot putt on the last hole to beat American Lizette Salas by one shot.

A rookie playing her first tournament outside of Japan, the delightful 20-year-old, known as The Smiling Cinderella, enchanted the large galleries with her sweet nature, hand touching, long drives and exquisite putting.

Not that there was anything special in that final round first nine when she went out in 37. But the smiles got broader as she scored five birdies  for 31 over the last nine to come home in dramatic style.

Earlier she had twice done better, coming home in a remarkable 30.

Never in 59 years of journalism can I recall an athlete having such fun in a demanding sport in which nerves can become easily frayed. And the public loved her for it.

It was a performance we have long been hoping Kiwi sweetheart Lydia Ko would deliver but the former world No 1 failed to make the cut. It could be time for her to get rid of her mental demons by taking a long break.

Shibuno, meanwhile, has the golfing world at her feet, just as a precocious Ko did as a teenager. We will watch her progress with fascination.

Meanwhile we await a much-improved performance from the All Blacks against Australia in Perth on Saturday in the knowledge the Wallabies scrum is not the pushover it once was.

May the best team win – so long as it is New Zealand.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer