• Hastings' Prince of centres Bruce Robertson passes on, aged 71

Hastings' Prince of centres Bruce Robertson passes on, aged 71

The Prince of Centres, All Black Bruce Robertson, who was born in Hastings and attended Hastings Boys’ High, has passed away after a long illness at the age of 71.

Known for his strong stance against apartheid – he refused to play against the 1981 Springboks – Robertson was recognisable for his silky skills as a centre and his flowing locks.

Robertson was born in Hastings on 9 April 1952 and learnt his rugby trade at Hastings Boys’ High. He represented Counties at a provincial level and was an All Black from 1972 to 1981. He played 102 matches for the All Blacks, including 34 internationals, and scored 30 tries, four of which were in test matches. Having toured South Africa in 1976, Robertson, along with captain Graham Mourie, refused to play against the Springboks in the ill-fated 1981 tour because of his "personal abhorrence of apartheid".

Robertson played 135 matches for Counties between 1971 and 1982, making his debut for the union at the age of 19.

Tributes were pouring in for All Black number 702 and a moments’ silence was held before the Super Rugby Pacific match between the Blues and Crusaders in Christchurch tonight.

In a post on its Facebook page, NZ Rugby said: “We are saddened by the passing of Bruce Robertson, All Black #702. Bruce played over 100 games for the All Blacks, including 34 Test Matches.”

NZR CEO Mark Robinson today remembered Robertson’s impact on the game on and off the field.

“Bruce was a great All Black, an incredibly gifted player who was renowned for his pace, vision and skill in the midfield. He gave back to the game throughout his life, going on to coach at age group, Super Rugby and NPC levels. He was a wonderful person who will long be remembered as one of one of the greats of our game. We send our condolences to his family and loved ones at this sad time.”

Counties Manukau Rugby also paid tribute to Robertson on its Facebook page: “We are saddened to share the news of the passing of legendary All Black and Counties Manukau Rugby icon Bruce Robertson. “

“Considered by many as the greatest centre in New Zealand Rugby history, Robertson was a giant of the game in the 1970s and was voted as the greatest player in the history of Counties Manukau Rugby by a panel of expert judges in 2020.”

“Bruce was a true rugby servant and leaves a lasting legacy at our Union. Our love and thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. 

“We are working with his family to confirm a service at Navigation Homes Stadium and will release details as soon as possible.”

Robertson finished his long international career in fine style, scoring a try in the 1981 Test against Scotland at Eden Park.

His association with rugby continued after his playing career, as he assisted the Blues at Super 12 level and the New Zealand Colts. He also served as coach of Counties-Manukau in the NPC second division in 2002-03.