Tributes pour in for fallen 'Pinetree'
REACTION: SA Rugby president, Mark Alexander, paid tribute to Sir Colin Meads, New Zealand's player of the 20th century - and one of the greatest of any nation of all time - who passed away on Sunday, aged 81.
He was as famous and as revered in South African rugby circles as he was in his homeland, touring South Africa twice and playing against the Springboks in 10 of his 55 tests. He visited South Africa with the All Blacks in 1960 and 1970 and opposed the Springboks at home in 1965.
"He was arguably the best of our best and fiercest rivals in the 20th century and everyone in every rugby community in our country was aware of Colin 'Pinetree' Meads. He achieved legendary status even while still playing and his reputation for ferocious and fearless play was the epitome of what New Zealand rugby stands for in South Africa.
"As much as New Zealand rugby is in mourning today, so is South African rugby. On behalf of the whole South African rugby community, I would like to pass on our condolences to his widow, Lady Verna and the Meads family and the entire New Zealand rugby community. We are united in memory today," Alexander said.
World Rugby led global tributes Sunday to All Blacks great Colin Meads who died aged 81 following a year-long battle with cancer.
"World Rugby is saddened by loss of @AllBlacks legend Sir Colin Meads. Our thoughts are with the Meads family and New Zealand Rugby family, " World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper tweeted.
Throughout New Zealand, people placed rugby balls outside the front door of their homes in a show of respect to the man named New Zealand Rugby's player of the 20th century.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it was an "incredibly sad time" and "his achievements in the black jersey are part of the All Blacks legacy and his loss will be felt by rugby people all over the world."
"This is an incredibly sad day," added current All Blacks captain Kieran Read. "Sir Colin was an icon of our game. I met him a few times and he was always keen to share a beer and have a yarn."
Another All Blacks great, Bryan Williams, said he was "completely overawed" when in the company of Meads.
As former teammates, opponents and fans took to social media to share their memories of Meads, former Wallabies lock Peter Fitzsimmons rated him "with Jonah Lomu, one of the two greatest All Blacks", recalling former All Blacks wing Lomu who died two years ago from a kidney ailment.
Former New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter - now retired from the Test fray - took to Twitter to express his sadness.
"Such sad news to wake up to today. An Honor to have met him on many occasions. RIP Sir Colin Meads!" said Carter.
Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick - now a respected pundit - said Meads had played a pivotal role in his career.
"So sad to wake up to the news that Sir Colin has died. He had such an influence on my life and many others. RIP Tree Love to Verna & family," tweeted the 54-year-old, who was a member of the 1991 World Cup winning side.
South African wing Ruan Combrinck tweeted: "One of the greatest. Had the privilege of meeting Sir Colin Meads a few years ago. Now he's gone up to heaven. Another legend gone. RIP sir."
At 1.92 metres, Meads was not a giant of a lock but he had a combativeness that made him a tough competitor and a player capable of scrapping well for the ball in the days when lifting in lineouts was illegal.
New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey said Meads left an unrivalled mark on the game.
"Sir Colin is an icon of rugby and New Zealand. Uncompromising on the field, his exploits are that of folklore, while he was just as revered off the field."