Richie McCaw will be named All Blacks captain today but there is still regret he is not wearing an Otago jersey.
Richie has strong roots in Otago but was lost to the province at the age of 18. Many lament his premature departure and suggest it ruined the possibility of a golden era in Otago rugby.
It's in Canterbury he has made his name and it will be at the Christchurch club todaythat he shakes hadn with Graham Henry's hand and accepts the most important job in NZ sport.
The way Richie slipped through the Otago net burns for former Otago Boys High School team-mates.
After the 1998 national first XV championship, which Otago Boys won, Richie was scouted by Canterbury rugby and offered a scholarship to Lincoln University.
His home union couldn't match it, so Richie's Otago rugby career ended there and then. He was an All Black within three years.
The Otago Boys coach Brian Ashwin said teh Otago RFU droppped the ball when it let Richie go in 1998.
Asked if McCaw's decision to head north created ripples at the school, Ashwin replied :
"The short answer is yes. I remember it was certainly a topic of discussion. Let's not beat around the bush. The ORFU simply didn't have a programme in place in 1998, so there was nothing to counter the offer with. Having said that, Richard had been thinking about Lincoln anyway, because agriculture commerce and science were his interests. Rugby was the bonus."
But McCaw's captain in 1998, Ryan Martin, remmebers it differently.
"His first option would have been to saty. I suppose the union didn't really put up something viable for him. He would have stayed", Martin said.
Another team-mate at the time, Mark McGregor, agrees.
"The way I herad it was that Otago only got interested in richie after they heard Linocln was keen".
Ian Arthur, who was the ORFU development officer in '98 and now runs the Otago Rugby Academy, said McCaw was strongly encouraged to stay in Otago. Arthur and Steve Martin, the former ORFU rugby manager who is now Otago coach, met McCaw and his parents and pleaded their case.
The sticking point, Arthur believed, was purely that McCaw wished to study farm management, and that could only be done at Lincoln. Otago rugby didn't have a full scholarship programme at the time and the University of Otago did not, and still does not, offer sporting scholarships.
Arthur is confident the union is now better placed to retain homegrown talent.
Thanks to Izzy "our local spy" for sending the article to me.
Notre ami Richie vient de la province d'Otago (la plus au sud de l'Ile du Sud -pour les "pas cales en geo Kiwie!). Il y a passe toute sa scolarite avant de partir (apres le bac) etudier a Lincoln (universite situee a Christchurch, province de Canterbury -au nord de l'ile du Sud).
L'histoire s'emmele les crayons : certains disent qu'Otago a fait une proposition a Richie avant qu'il ne soit contacte par Lincoln ; et d'autres maintiennent le contraire. Les defenseurs de la premiere theorie sont persuades qu'avec Richie dans les rangs des Highlanders, ce ne sont pas les Crusaders qui reigneraient sur le rugby du Sud a l'heure actuelle....ca reste a prouver!
Ce qui est sur, c'est que Richie voulait etudier l'agronomie et que l'universite d'Otago n'a pas ca en stock! donc, on va les calmer, les ptis : l'important, c'est que Richie joue toujours au rugby!