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Sat Apr 19 04:17:17 SAST 2014

When Chuck Norris met rugger-bugger Bakkies Botha

Archie Henderson | 04 June, 2012 07:070 Comments

UNTIL a Saturday midway in May, Brad Thorn was just another All Black brute. But after Leinster European Cup final victory the 37-year-old lock forward comes across as the Chuck Norris of rugby.

With that win on May 19, Thorn became the only player to win a Rugby World Cup, a Super rugby title and a European Cup. He is also the oldest player to have won the European Cup.

He won the World Cup with the All Blacks last year (8-7 against France), the Super 14 with the Crusaders in 2008 and this year's European Cup final against Ulster (42-14 at Twickenham).

That's not all. He has won four Grand Finals with the Brisbane Broncos in Australia's National Rugby League, two National Provincial Championships (the Kiwis' version of the Currie Cup) with Canterbury and the Tri-Nations with the All Blacks in 2003.

He is also the first man since Bill Hardcastle to represent Australia in rugby league and New Zealand in rugby union. Hardcastle, a man said to have lived up to the family name, toured with the All Blacks in Australia in 1897 but played no tests. He made his test debut in 1899 for Australia against the British Lions and played against New Zealand in 1903 in the "first official" rugby test between the two countries.

He toured Britain in 1908 with the Kangaroos, the Aussie rugby league side, was a machine-gunner who survived World War 1 and died in 1944.

It's not hard to imagine that Thorn could have lived a similar life had he lived in an earlier era.

When the Crusaders won the Super 14 in 2008 Thorn was the second man to have won a Super rugby title and an NRL title, after Peter Ryan of the Brisbane Broncos of 1998 and the Brumbies of 2001.

Asked by the New Zealand Herald to explain his achievements, Thorn replied that he had always been a "big dreamer". Even dreamers might not have dared go as far as Thorn.

"It was a real privilege to be part of that," said Thorn, with the Christian charity for which he is now known.

Charity off the field, but not on it. Just ask Bakkies Botha, another God-fearing rugger-bugger.

Botha and Thorn were adversaries in a 2008 Tri-Nations test match in Wellington where, so the story goes, Thorn got his retaliation in first. It had apparently been part of the All Blacks plan to "neutralise" the Bok enforcer and Thorn was given the mission.

Everything went according to plan and Bakkies was still recovering from the retaliation - possibly still dazed as the water men applied the magic liquid - when he noticed referee Stuart Dickinson having a word with Thorn.

Botha quickly got to his feet, rushed over to the pair, pleading: "Mr Ref, Mr Ref. please don't send him off." In Botha's charitable mind, one good turn deserved another ... at some point later in the game. Did Chuck Norris meet his match that day? Well, no one is saying.

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