Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.Read more exclusive columns
Lions Memories: Sir Brian Lochore
Jim Kayes 12 Apr 2017 Getty Images
So Lochore went looking for pen and paper to leave a note on the kitchen table, for his wife. It said: “Pam, gone to Wellington to play in the Test. Ring you later”. Then he hopped in his car, drove out of retirement and to the station where he caught the train to Wellington.
Lochore had retired earlier in the year after realising he wasn’t as excited as he should’ve been about the year ahead. “If you are not right up there mentally then it’s very hard physically. I could show you the spot in the paddock where I was when I decided to retire.”
It was short lived with the Athletic Park recall coming after he’d already been pressed into action for Wairarapa-Bush against the Lions just a few weeks earlier. But that Test against the Lions was it, finally bringing the curtain down on a stellar playing career.
Sitting alongside him in the dressing shed were the likes of the Meads brothers, Colin and Stan (Colin then in his 10th year of test rugby), outstanding flanker Kel Tremain and Waka Nathan and prop Ken Gray. “It was a very strong and settled pack,” Lochore remembers.
So there was no one more surprised than him when the great coach, Fred Allen, pulled him aside for a quiet chat and asked if, with the retirement of Wilson Whineray, he would captain the All Blacks against the 1966 Lions. It was an inspired choice. Not only would Lochore lead the All Blacks to a series white–wash of the Lions, but he lost just three of the 18 tests he captained the All Blacks in.
“For a greenhorn like me I was pretty nervous at first, being made captain over others more experienced than me. I think we had seven provincial captains in the pack and some of them were very experienced Test players. I don’t think I was poor a the beginning, but I was a little jittery and not very assertive.”
Lochore believes the reason for the All Blacks success against the Lions in 1966 is the same reason the 2017 team should have an edge in June – the skills of the forwards. “It’s always been our strength, probably for nigh on 100 years. They (British forwards) are catching up and getting better, but we are still better than them.”
It’s why Lochore believes the All Blacks will go into the Test series favoured to win, especially if the Lions schedule gets the better of them. Games against all five Super Rugby franchises and a match against the Maori All Blacks could, he believes, be their undoing.
“The franchises are going to give them a right old bolloxing. They might not win, but they will be tough games. It will be about how the Lions gel as a team; and how the management group comes together too, that’s key as well.
“This will be a tough tour and they will have a big squad, which is always hard to handle.
“If they can gel they will be strong. It’s a big challenge for the All Blacks, but a challenge always brings the best out of us.”
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