New Zealand Rugby and the Blues have expressed sadness following the death of former All Black Frank Oliver.
Oliver passed away in his sleep and was found at his home in Palmerston North on Monday. He was 65.
Oliver played 43 matches for the All Blacks between 1976 and 1981, including 17 Tests and three as Captain.
He was also assistant coach of the Blues in 2000 and head coach in 2001.
ì”I’m really surprised and saddened, and my thoughts go out to Frank’s family,” Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said.†
“It obviously brought back some really strong memories. In 2000 I came back and I was manager with Gordie Hunter and Frank Oliver, and to be fair it was a pretty turbulent couple of years.”
“The Blues were trying to re-find themselves and Frank was just a really big part of that. In the second year when Gordie got sick Frank took over as head coach and I became assistant coach and he was just a really hard man but also a great man.
“He really cared about rugby, he cared about the guys playing so it was really sad because I saw him not so long ago and he’s always fit and well so I got a bit of a shock.”
In offering condolences, New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: †ìOur thoughts are with the Oliver family at this sad time.
ìFrank was one of the hard men of rugby and has a unique place in New Zealand’s rugby history: he played for three different provinces, was an All Black, an All Blacks Captain, was one of New Zealand’s inaugural Super Rugby coaches (coaching the Hurricanes from 1996 – 1999) and he and his son Anton were one of 18 father and son All Blacks.î
Manawatu Rugby Union CEO John Knowles added: “It is a very sad day for our Union in losing one of Manawatu’s greatest players and All Blacks. He was one of New Zealand’s tough men of rugby, both as a player and as a coach. The province will feel this loss immensely and our sympathy and condolences are extended to his family.”
Southland CEO Brian Hopley said: “Frank was a legend of the game and contributed a lot to Southland Rugby in the 1970s. His toughness and leadership will be well remembered. Our thoughts are with his family during this time.”
Richard Kinley, General Manager of Otago Rugby said: †ìWhile Frank’s coaching and All Blacks career are well known, not everyone will appreciate how much of a good Otago country club rugby man he was, playing and volunteering many hours for the Toko Club. It’s clear his love for rugby and his contribution to the game stem back to the very grassroots of our game. Otago obviously has a close connection to both Frank and his son Anton, so we very much share in this loss. †Our thoughts are with Anton and the Oliver family at this time.î
Hurricanes Chief Executive James Te Puni said: “We are saddened to hear about the passing of Frank Oliver. As the inaugural coach, he was a key leader in establishing the first Hurricanes team as well as its brand. He will always have an important place in Hurricanes history.”
Born in Dunedin, Oliver grew into a rugged lock and made his provincial debut in 1969 for Southland, playing 64 games for the province over eight years. He also played for Otago in the late 1970s and 54 matches for Manawatu in the early 1980s. †Oliver earned his first call-up to the All Blacks for the 1976 tour to South Africa. He captained the All Blacks in three Tests against the Wallabies in 1978 and was also part of the historic 1978 Grand Slam team. His last Test for the All Blacks was the second Test against South Africa in 1981. Oliver coached the New Zealand Under 19 team in 1994, Manawatu (1995 -1997), the Hurricanes (1996-1999) and coached the Blues in 2001.