Sir Brian Lochore with the Lochore Cup before last year’s final between Mid Canterbury and West Coast. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Sir Brian Lochore says he would be “honoured” to hand the trophy that was named after him to Wairarapa-Bush captain James Goodger on Sunday in Levin.

Wairarapa-Bush will take on Horowhenua-Kapiti in the Heartland Championship Lochore Cup final [2.30pm], and while Wairarapa’s most famous rugby player will not be jumping up and down in support of the team, he is quietly hopeful they will be able to get the job done.

“Nobody really wants to be playing for the Lochore Cup, but when they find themselves in the middle four, they’re always pretty happy to win it,” Sir Brian said.

“Everyone wants to be in the top four, but once you get into that second four, you want to win it, and I don’t think it will be any different for Wairarapa-Bush.”

Wairarapa-Bush have won the Lochore Cup just once before, when they beat Buller 15-9 in Westport in the 2010 final.

Ironically, it was Wairarapa-Bush’s performance on the West Coast of the South Island this year that Sir Brian was most impressed with.

That match was against West Coast in Greymouth, with Wairarapa-Bush winning 23-5.

“I went down to Greymouth and I was most impressed with their performance down there – that was a complete 80-minute job,” he said.

“Their other great period was in the second half against South Canterbury . . . in Greymouth they were like what they were in the second half against South Canterbury, but for the full 80 minutes.”

Sir Brian was thrilled to see the progress Wairarapa-Bush have made after a disappointing campaign last season, in which they only won one match on the way to an 11th-place finish.

He said they had come a long way in the past 12 months, after a slow start to the season which was compounded by injuries to key players.

“I didn’t see the first game against North Otago, but they were obviously a bit flat for whatever reason.

“I thought if they played to their potential, they could beat North Otago, and I think if they can play like they did against West Coast, I would give them a very good chance of winning this weekend.”

Sir Brian may not be shouting and cheering for Wairarapa-Bush on Sunday, but he would be more than happy to hand them the cup at the end of the contest.

“You don’t have to jump up and down to support them underneath, and I’ll certainly be doing that.

“I’d be very honoured to hand them the cup – I’m a total supporter and I’m pleased to see the progress they’ve made this year, which has been very good.”

Sir Brian said the Heartland Championship was exciting because every team believed they had a chance of winning it each year, which was not always the case in other competitions.

That was illustrated last weekend with Thames Valley’s 17-7 win over Wanganui, who had won the Meads Cup for three years running.

“I think the teams are better prepared and a lot fitter than they were,” he said.

“You’ve got to play well to win, no matter who you play in the competition, because it’s certainly evened out a great deal.”