Columnists 23.8.2017 01:25 pm

RIP Pinetree: they don’t make them like that now

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

Sir Colin fell victim to cancer at the age of 81, but remained a legend among South African rugby followers as perhaps the fiercest of all the All Black opponents the Springboks were to face.

It was one of those poignant moments in time that typifies the comradeship of the game of rugby union that the death of Pinetree Meads would cause such a sad hiatus in the discussion of the merits of the 37-15 victory the Boks had registered over Argentina among the usual gathering.

Sir Colin, as he was to become, finally fell victim to cancer at the age of 81, but remained a legend among South African rugby followers as perhaps the fiercest of all the All Black opponents the Springboks were to face. “There was,” said the Silent One, “something very South African about the very way he played the game that appealed to the rugby public in this country.

“Here was a giant of the game, a worker in the engine room of the scrum, a sworn enemy off the field who never admitted to any fear of the opposition, yet was more than content to be described as a sheep farmer from Te Kuiti in the rural North Island backwoods of King Country.”

It was unusual for the Silent One, no committed student of the game to have such a grasp of the basic facts surrounding a single player, but he did indeed have it right. Such was the standing of a colossus of the game, that he had taken the time to research the legend. His summary though, was just the catalyst for the regulars to reach for their smartphones and attempt to fill in the blanks to fill out their own recollections of Pinetree.

“In the 133 times he pulled on the All Black jersey between 1957 and 1971 he played 55 Tests,” said the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer. “That was an incredible number of internationals in those days, and although our own Frik du Preez started his 38-match Test career four years later than Meads, the two are linked in the pantheon of great players.

“Pinetree even managed to play on with an arm broken in a tour game against Eastern Transvaal … and, with the help of a leather arm guard, go on to play a Test. He was a very tough country boy.” The Silent One took this in before replying. “That indeed goes to prove it,” he said. “But the story I think encapsulates Meads was an incident which happened after a match in Wales.

“The big man had come down to the bar for a quiet pint before bedtime when a local fan, emboldened no doubt by a long stay after the game and more than just a single libation, challenged Pinetree. “He did two things; grasped the handle in his right hand and a firm grasp of his challenger’s shirt in his left.

“He calmly finished his pint with one hand while holding the aggressor off the floor pinned at arms length against the wall with his left. He drained it, nodded at the open-mouthed barman for a refill. This too he drained, then put down the glass and lowered the man pinned against the wall, nodded to the clientele and left a stunned bar behind him.

“But Meads had one serious blot in his stellar career; being sent off in a Test at Murrayfield. The Telegraph acknowledged that it was a case of perhaps over-robust play but added that it was ‘for one with Meads’ worldwide reputation for robust play, this was rather like sending a burglar to prison for a parking offence’.”

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