Major teams: Ponsonby, Auckland
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 1992-98
New Zealand caps: 56 (56 starts)
Test points: 20 (4T)
The foundation stone on which New Zealand’s great pack of the 1990s was built, Olo Brown was one of the finest props world rugby has seen, but also one of the game’s most low-profile superstars as he shunned press conferences and interviews.
Born in Apia, Samoa, he emerged from Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland with good enough academic results to become a chartered accountant and good enough rugby skills to oust Peter Fatialofa from the Auckland side in 1989, when Brown was only 21.
A year later, the Ponsonby prop was summoned from a New Zealand Development tour of Canada as injury cover for the All Blacks’ tour of France, but didn’t earn his first Test cap until June 1992. Once he was in the side, Brown proved unmovable in more ways than one, and missed just a single Test in the next six years, when he was rested against Japan during the 1995 World Cup.
Alongside Sean Fitzpatrick, Steve McDowell, and later Craig Dowd, he anchored the scrum as they replicated their Auckland form on the Test stage. The All Blacks website pays this tribute: “He was the cornerstone of the pack. With his technique and straightness of back, he was rated by scrummaging experts as one of the finest props to play for New Zealand at any time. His provincial and Test team-mate, Sean Fitzpatrick, swore by his prowess and few scrums anchored by Brown were ever bettered.”
Brown finished on the winning side in 40 of his 56 Tests, including a series victory against the Lions in 1993 and nine wins out of 14 over both South Africa and Australia. He was the first All Blacks prop to reach 50 caps.
When the game turned professional he continued his accountancy work, but still played the first three seasons of Super Rugby with the Blues, winning the title in 1996 and 1997.
Brown’s career was ended abruptly by a neck and back injury he suffered against the Springboks in 1998. Typically, this media-shy giant never officially announced his retirement.