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23 May 2014
The McClure family of Wellington New Zealand have been friends of my family for 25 years. Wife Cindy and Husband Lance have two kids and they live in the suburb of Lower Hutt.
Lance has served in the New Zealand police force for all of his working life, rising to be a Senior constable. Several times he has been posted to the Solomon Islands to assist in the rebuild of that country after violent storm damage.
This year Lance sent me this touching and very sad story of rugby connection and also about the loss of one life in the recent floods.
From the Solomon Star Times: Electronic Edition 12 April 2014.
SATURDAY, 12 APRIL 2014 12:38
WHEN the Solomon Islands sent a rugby team to the Hong Kong 7s for the first time in 1983, one of the key players was Leonard Pugeva. But now 30 years later Leonard's family and the rugby community are mourning.
Leonard died in the raging torrents of the flashflood of the Matanikau river on Thursday last week and his body, and those of three of his grandchildren who drowned in the flooded river, will be taken to his home village of Tokengau in Bellona for burial today.
He took up rugby in 1971 and was 27 when he first represented Solomon Islands at Hong Kong according to historical records.
He had previously represented the country at the 1979 South Pacific Games and in 1980 at the Air Pacific Trophy competition.
Now at the age of 58 years, he is gone from among us.
This information paper comes from a member of the rugby community who was shocked to hear of his passing in such tragic circumstances.
Two of his children and a daughter-in-law and her brother survived the flood waters and were plucked from Point Cruz harbor by rescuers on boats.
Leonard's tragic story was played out in other families in Honiara last week and there are many others who lost mainly mothers and children.
He and his family had almost completed their family home on the bank of the Matanikau river near Vara creek where they operated a small canteen while he bought timber to complete the structure.
With his eldest son he was attending to the timber when the flashflood hit the canteen and then washed everyone downstream.
The house was then hit by debris and it collapsed into the river and floated downstream with two hundred pieces of 4 by 1 inch timber.
Leonard will long be remembered in the rugby community.
He went to Hong Kong twice and played for several years before retiring.
His second son Masunu became a national representative in both wrestling and rugby 7s.
His legacy to sport and to his family will live on.
He is survived by his wife Teisi, several children and several remaining grandchildren.
Teiti's people in Honiara and Wagina are also in mourning.
Fa’ako Liolea, another former rugby star, married Leonard's sister and was with the family most of the past week, and their rugby playing partner Joe Uilelea and his wife (Teiti's sister) sent condolences from Samoa where Joe is a Congregational Minister.
Others in their champion team of 1983 were John Bainivalu, Jared Beti, Tela Delaiverata, Warren Bao, Josaia Titia, Job Tuhaika and Bobby Ramo.
Most of them played at Hong Kong again in 1984.
The Australian team they faced included such names as David Campese and the Ella brothers
Great Britain beat NZ 6-3 in the first of a four test series. From Carisbrook in Dunedin a local 4YA staff member Alfred Laurie Canter was the commentator.
For many years the record for the largest crowd to watch a rugby international was the 95,000 that packed into the old Ellis Park ground in Johannesburg in 1955 to watch the ﬁrst test between South Africa and the British Isles. There were also 95,000 present in Bucharest in May 1957 to see France play Romania, although it should be mentioned that the game was actually played as a curtain raiser to a major soccer match!
A record was thought to have been set at Murrayﬁeld in Edinburgh in 1975, when it was reported that a crowd of 104,000 watched the Wales v Scotland international. However, in the end the ofﬁcial attendance was listed as 80,000.
The biggest total of people to watch a test match in New Zealand is the 61,240 who attended Eden Park in Auckland for the fourth test between New Zealand and South Africa in 1956.
For decades the record attendance for a test match in Australia was the 48,898 who came to see New Zealand play Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the third test of 1980. That total was impressive enough considering the lesser place rugby held in the hearts of the Australian sporting public at the time. However being twice world champions in the 1990s helped the upsurge in popularity of rugby union. Coinciding with the rise in rugby’s significance came the building of much larger sports arenas, most notably for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games.
The latest record total for crowds at a rugby test in Australia therefore also became the world’s best. At Stadium Australia in Sydney on July 15, 2000 with the Bledisloe Cup at stake the All Blacks and the Wallabies played in front of 109,878 fans. A year before on the same ground 107,042 had watched the same two teams in action.
At the other end of the scale, there have been many times when ofﬁcials have been disappointed with the size of crowds that have turned out to see major rugby matches.
Easily the tiniest crowd to watch a signiﬁcant rugby match would have been the few dozen people who stood about on the sidelines of Owl Creek Polo Ground in Glenville, in upstate New York, for the match between USA and South Africa in 1981.
To avoid anti-apartheid protesters and prying news media, the two teams traveled in secret to a destination which only a few ofﬁcials knew about. They also had quietly scheduled the match to begin 24 hours ahead of its planned playing time, and goal-posts were only erected (by the players of both teams) ﬁve minutes before kick-off. When the teams ran on to the sloping, muddy and manure-smelling ﬁeld, 60 state police leapt from unmarked cars to guard the event, but they cannot be claimed as boosters to the total attendance ﬁgure of 25!
Had there been a scoreboard at the ground it would have shown a ﬁnal score of South Africa 38, USA 7. Perhaps this was the only international where there were more points scored than people attending.
One of the South African players in the game, Thys Burger, claims some sort of world record. He says he helped put up the posts; when the game started he acted as touch judge for a time, then he came on to play as a substitute and finished his day by scoring a try between them!
Dr Danie Craven is often called 'The Father of South African Rugby' - what was he a doctor of?