Former New Zealand test coach Laurie Mains has paid tribute to late All Blacks prop Tony Kreft as the “cornerstone’’ of their Otago pack and “one of the best team spirit men’’ in rugby.
Kreft died in Dunedin, aged 78, last Friday, a day after the passing in New Plymouth of 1srcsrc-year-old Roy Roper, who had been the longest-living All Black.
Ranfurly-based Kreft had four games for the All Blacks on the 1968 tour, including one test, playing alongside some of the greatest All Blacks of the amateur era including Colin Meads, Ian Kirkpatrick and Chris Laidlaw.
Mains, who played alongside Kreft for Otago, said he “probably would have’’ won more caps but “the New Zealand front row at that stage was very strong, and it would have been very difficult to break in’’.
“He played a lot of rugby for Otago, and he was the cornerstone of the scrum in the years I played with him,” Mains said on Monday.
“But even better than that, he would have been one of the best team spirit men to have in a rugby team.
“He never had a bad word to say about anyone, and I never heard a bad word about him.
“He was always very jovial, the life of the party. We used to do a lot of trips in those days, and he sat in the middle of the back set and pretty much controlled everything that went on.”
Otago Rugby Union chief executive Richard Kinley also paid tribute to Kreft.
“Tony played 58 games for Otago from 1966 through to 197src. During later years he continued his connection with Otago Rugby through being part of the radio commentary team calling games from Dunedin.
“Krefty’ was an outgoing, friendly man, a real character who will be truly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time. “
Born in Milton in 1945 and raised in Ranfurly in the Maniototo, Kreft at 1.86m tall and 98kg was “strongly built and surprisingly mobile in the open’’, according to Kreft’s profile on the NZ Rugby Museum website.
He made his first-class debut for Otago in 1966 as a 21-year-old and the following year played 15 provincial matches,
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