The All Black who is a farmer first, rugby player second

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PATEAROA, New Zealand — On the wall of the sheep-shearing hut at Stonehenge farm 10 or so kilometres from Patearoa in Maniototo, central Otago, is an All Blacks jersey. It has slipped slightly in its wooden frame and sits next to a chalk diagram against a granite board showing the different parts of a sheep’s coat, and two further framed jerseys from sheep-shearing world championships.

A little further on are six shearing machines, each a limited edition emblazoned with a silver fern and the score from the 2015 Rugby World Cup final.


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There are few clues to the past life of the man checking the hooves of some of the 20,000 sheep on the farm which has been in the Hore family for 107 years.

When Andrew Hore met his wife Francine for the first time on a plane, he was on Highlanders duty but when she asked what he did for a living, he replied “I’m a farmer.”

Andrew’s four-year old son Tyrell is very fond of his father’s friend Richie. He’s the tall man with the helicopter; the chap who flew Francine in for her wedding, after getting her make up done in Wedderburn. Andrew was also airlifted in, after putting the final touches to his attire and calming nerves in a nearby woolshed with his front-row colleagues Tony and Greg.

There was never any doubt that Andrew would return to his family’s farm after his 83-cap, 16-year spell in professional rugby. Francine, who married Andrew in 2014, talks of the Maori phrase, tūrangawaewae; it translates as ‘a place to stand’, the land he feels strong on.

It is lunchtime on the farm, one owned by Jim and Sue Hore. The Hore family are sitting round the table in Jim and Sue’s house; it is a daily routine where the farm comes to life at dawn, with a pause for refuelling, and then winding down at dusk. Charlie Hore, Andrew’s older brother who owns another farm a little further down the track, is sporting a Viadana shirt; a memento from his time as a fly-half which took him from Borders, to Dax, and then onto Italy but saw progress in Super Rugby halted due to an untimely dislocated shoulder, which opened the door for one Dan Carter.

There are other friends sat around, each leave and say their thanks to Sue — Andrew’s mum — who offers this new visitor from England cups of tea and coffee. She tells the stories of how Andrew’s breakfast on the farm of chops and eggs is now in the All Blacks’ nutrition guide.

She remembers when the Highlanders came to the farm for preseason training and did their best to haul rams around, and then ran fence wire up and down the rolling hills of this 20,000-acre farm. Tyrell is learning the haka and has just started playing rugby; his younger sister Esmé is a little scared of these new visitors.

Hore, left, played 83 times for the All Blacks and won the World Cup alongside Richie McCaw, right. Hannah Peters/Getty Images

We hear how Tyrell’s match the weekend prior ended prematurely after hitting an opponent two-and-a-half years his senior who was trying to steal his ball — “He lets out a bit of steam and enjoys it. I’d be pretty proud if he played footie, but there’s no pressure on him. It’s good to play a team sport but he just has to enjoy it,” is Andrew’s take.

On the front lawn of the house are rugby posts for Charlie’s son, Charles, to practise his goal-kicking — “That was never my sort of thing, if I wasn’t good at it immediately then I just went on to the next thing,” Andrew says.

Jim, the father of the house, remembers how he watched the 1959 Lions series, and the first ‘Don Clarke’ Test at Carisbrook. He is interested to hear how morale is in the British & Irish Lions and where they are staying in Dunedin.

Andrew is still assessing the feet of the sheep as they are delivered along a conveyor belt; he trims the hooves as Charles helps hold them, and then marks those with a blue dot who may face feet trouble in the future. Jim oversees it all as sheepdogs bark — both the herders and musters.

We take a trip with Francine to visit one of the many hills which overlook Stonehenge farm. Amid jutting rocks are where they scattered the ashes of Andrew’s grandfather. Those rocks rest against the backdrop of remarkable ridges dominating the skyline — Lord of the Rings was filmed there – leaving this vast plane where Stonehenge sits, creating wool for Merino and meat for Silver Fern.

A few kilometres further down from the farm are their horses, including Digger. He is Andrew’s, an 18-hand part-Clydesdale stallion who has a slight temper — “I have to stand on a box to get on the big bastard”.

Andrew is ready for a break. It has been three years since he played professional rugby, but four days since he played 80 minutes for his local team, the Maniototo Maggots, who he also coaches. He is a bit of a marked man with opponents usually keen to place a cheap shot on the man who has won a World Cup with the All Blacks and played for three different franchises.

“The All Blacks are now a bit of a past life for me. When the Lions come over and the hype increases, you realise that what you did is a little bit special.”

Andrew Hore

There is a proud history of All Blacks and farming. Sir Colin Meads, Sir Brian Lochore and Graham Mourie all come from that background.

“It’s getting out and growing up on a farm, you have a ball and you have plenty of open spaces to get into,” Hore says. “I grew up with my father telling me how good the Springboks were. We had the videos of the first Cavalier tour. I think there’s some study done on how most good players are from little towns. Look at Richie McCaw from Kurow, Dan Carter from Southbridge and Woodcock from Kaukapakapa where I suppose you are a big kid and you enjoy what you do.

“When I was growing up it was rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer. We had my older brother who played and then my father and mother spent a hell of a lot of time getting us round to training and then we went to boarding school.”

At this stage our chat is interrupted by the snort of a pig, who is shuffling along sniffing the scorched grass. “This is the mother’s pet pig, ‘Miss Piggy’. She’s about 12 months old and she’s on thin ice, she’s been rooting up my garden. Things aren’t looking too good for this pig.”

We are next to one of the woolsheds, a tractor is bringing in hay while the dogs bark and the sheep continue to have their feet checked. “This has always been me. I went to boarding school in 1991 at the mighty John McGlashan and I was itching to get back from then on. Then I played a bit of rugby and have been back here since 2013 full-time.

“But I did always come back whenever I could. In 2011 before the World Cup I played six games for Maniototo building up to the tournament. The All Blacks are now a bit of a past life for me. When the Lions come over and the hype increases, you realise that what you did is a little bit special.

“That whole thing of international rugby took a little time to get my head around. When you look back at the track record there were a couple of times when it took a while to work out that being an All Black meant you had to live up to certain standards and rightfully so. But once I got my head around that I was pretty good.

Andrew Hore prior to the 2016 Mire 10 final between Otago and North Harbour. Dianne Manson/Getty Images

“But I’ve moved on now. When I go to rugby, I’m just another guy trying to help my kid play and I coach the Maggots.

“They were great times when they lasted. I miss it a little, I had a lot of good times. You never get back the hour after a game where you are sat around, in the dressing room with a couple of cold beers talking about the games. You can never get that back, it’s a golden hour.

“But this place has been in the family for five generations and while I hope I’ve got another 50 years or so in me, I hope the lad takes over and makes a go of it and does what he wants.”

The sheep have finally been checked. The sun is just peaking above the crest of the vast ridges either side of Stonehenge Farm. Shadows are cast down the hills; the odd cow continues to graze. Dogs are loaded back into the 4x4s.

We move in convoy to the Patearoa Hotel, Andrew’s local. There are four tables, each with stools placed underneath, one pair of feet over the metal bar, holding them in place. Six gleaming bottles of Speight are produced, each dwarfed by the hands of the men from Stonehenge Farm.

Conversation flitters between lesser known memories of Andrew’s All Black days, Jim’s take on England’s win over Argentina last Saturday and the plan for Thursday. Andrew will be sorting out the water situation for some of the cows dwarfed by their rolling surroundings.

On the wall of the pub is a sign, which reads: “A father is a guy who has photos in his wallet where his money used to be”. All of Andrew’s money from rugby is in the farm, in the ground preparing it for Tyrell to one day takeover. Lucrative moves abroad were turned down to stay close to Stonehenge and his family. It’s the land he feels strong on.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19624382/andrew-hore-rugby-world-cup-winning-farmer-finds-place-stand
The All Black who is a farmer first, rugby player second
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