Friday Oct 30, 2015

A Cup Full of Baggage - The RWC Final from a Kiwi perspective

Four years ago we heard from lifelong New Zealand fan, Antony O’Sullivan, as he and an expectant nation prepared for the the 2011 RWC knockout stages. Now, with a first ever away win for the All Blacks a possibility, we hear from the ‘simian’ Kiwi again.

Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, trembling, choking feeling, feeling detached from your surroundings, sweating, nausea. 

Am I listing symptoms of a panic attack? Well yes. BUT they are also symptoms many New Zealanders feel when watching the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup knock out game.

Over the past two weekends the people of this great little nation on the edge of the world have been waking up in the wee small hours (some are too anxious to sleep) steeling themselves for what’s about to come, strapping on their adult nappies and willing with everything they have for our boys in black to show the world why we are the dominant force in World Rugby.

This video perfectly illustrates my point:

Watching knock out Rugby with a Kiwi

Why your Kiwi friends are more on edge than usual this week…

Posted by Julian Shaw on Friday, October 16, 2015

Looking at the All Blacks’ incredible record, especially in recent times, many would be forgiven for thinking that supporting the ABs is smooth sailing. Come World Cup time, it’s not.

Four years ago I wrote an article for Rugbydump outlining the heartbreak that I personally had been through growing up watching the All Blacks consistently win but have failure after failure at World Cups – Choke, Growing up All Black and Blue.

Well after I wrote that, thankfully the All Blacks delivered to a desperate nation what it craved and after 24 years of pain, we won the World Cup!!

So yea that was AWESOME, but speak to anyone outside of NZ and what do you hear: ‘Well, you still can’t win one outside your own country’ | ‘To be fair that Ref (Craig Joubert) forgot how to blow his whistle”| ‘You buggers were lucky, the French were all over you.’

Does this bother us? Do we still hold onto the 24 years of pain we experienced between 1987 and 2011? I would love to say no, but YES, overwhelming YES. Kiwis want to be unquestionably, undeniably the best. Are we a bit weird and insecure about the whole thing? YES!

If there is anyone in the world who knows you back to front, knows your deepest insecurities and knows how to prey on them, it’s your big brother. NZ has one: The crims from across the ditch.

The Australian department of sledging, which is usually based with their Cricket team, has transferred to the rugby media. Not only have they gone to town on the All Blacks, throwing around the chokers tag, but what’s worse is that they have gone after our Captain, Richie. Those C**ts!!

Every kiwi kid wants to be an All Black  and Richie is considered by most to be the greatest All Black of all time. He is very special to us. We take attacks on him personally.

The depiction of Richie as a grub, although quite clearly tongue in cheek, was not met with amusement on this side of the Tasman.

This has been followed up with nastier articles by fair weather fan outlets who actually don’t know bugger all about Rugby.  I understand hating Richie if he wasn’t on your team.  When I watch him play for the Crusaders he’s like a reoccurring haemorrhoid because he is so good. 

Of course, it’s a mark of respect more than anything else that he has so many detractors.  For all those who complain about him being offside constantly, 15.4.(c): “The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then may play the ball from any direction.” So there. 

Just ask Brain Moore how well kiwis take anyone questioning King Richie.

Mr Moore, in the immediate aftermath of the match against South Africa, tweeted a Vine video of Richie clipping Francois Louw with what appeared to be his elbow, and insinuated this could affect his chances of appearing in the final.

Considering the heightened state of stress the Rugby loving public of New Zealand were in, this was like a red rag to a bull. He copped a massive amount of flak. Even from yours truly. I am slightly embarrassed about this although Brian’s response cracked me up:

Left: Me the Simian. Right: Brian Moore

So a former England hooker blocked me on twitter. But more importantly, when the footage was slowed down it quite clearly showed Richie clipping Francois’ shoulder with his hip.

To be fair on Brian, it would have been interesting from a neutrals point of view. Without a team to support, something has to perk your interest I guess (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Brian is one of the best when it comes to pundits going around and wrote a great piece on Richie this week, which if you haven’t read, you should.

I have no doubt that the only people who are getting wound up by the press are people like me.

Richie has always seemed pretty level headed when it comes to that sort of nonsense and I’m sure the rest of the team aren’t taking too much notice of it either.  Both camps have been pretty tight-lipped in the lead-up, not giving anything away.

The Wallabies won’t call the All Blacks “The All Blacks”… That’s a bit weird, but other than that there have been no shots fired.

Let’s backtrack a bit, and I’ll get to big one in the weekend shortly.

Going back to the start of the World cup the Abs did the business without looking great against an Argentinian side that was better than most realised. Against Georgia and Namibia, the All Blacks looked like an uncoordinated cat playing with its food.

Finally, they  took it up a notch in the second half against the Tongans but still it was nothing to write home about.  Back here we were none too happy and after much technical analysis the scientific conclusion we had come to was the All Blacks were playing like poos.

On the other side of the draw, those pesky Aussies were looking quite good. ‘Well, f**k me’ we were all thinking!! Steve Hansen told us all to calm down because they were holding stuff back. HOLDING BACK?! The All Blacks don’t hold back! They dominate, obliterate and the country celebrates.
To top it off Irish beat the French and we had to look our demons right in the eye. We had the French in a quarterfinal in Cardiff. The country needed a colostomy bag. 

That was the hardest week of the tournament for me.  It was like returning to an ally where a thief had mugged you, and then returning with $1,000 dollars in your pocket. It could all happen again so easily.

So after a week of restless nights and saying to my wife, who’s not really a fan, “you don’t know what I’ve been through!” the game we feared arrived.

The All Blacks played like.. All Blacks, as the public expects them to every time they play. They were physical, fast, creative and ruthless. It was as if when we returned to the scene of the crime and we had a mass exorcism, minus the green puke and a crucifix.

For just a brief moment, we could bask in the gift that the All Blacks had given us, and it was magnificent!!

Next up the old foe, South Africa, and the worst two weeks of any NZ rugby fans life continued.

One of only three teams that has managed a solitary win over the Force of Black in the last four years. But every single game we play them in is hard fought and hard earned and on the big stage it was never going to be easy. 

The build-up to the game was filled with nerves but not the same sort of trepidation there was the week before. With the French you never know what to expect, but with Boks it was always going to be tough. 

Watching the game was uncomfortable – not walking into a swingers party and seeing your parents there uncomfortable – but taking deep breaths into a paper bag to maintain consciousness uncomfortable.

Fair play to the Boks in a game where they never looked like scoring a try they very nearly snuck the win. The All Blacks to their credit held their composure in the last 10 minutes won the big moments and booked themselves a spot in the big dance.

For 24 hours after the game, we all became Argentina fans but sadly that was not meant to be. In all honesty, it’s actually quite cool to be meeting the boys from across the ditch in a World Cup final for the first time.

Every year these two proud nations fight for the Bledisloe Cup which is more important than any other trophy barring the William Webb Ellis to the NZ rugby public.

The Aussies haven’t been able to have drink out of it for 13 lovely years. The reason for that are the following names Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Tony Woodcock, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and the only member who will be stranded in the 90s in terms of Test caps and not raise the bat as part of the hundy club, Conrad Smith. 

I can’t see these guys playing badly to be honest. We have been blessed with these amazing athletes who have not only had the talent but he drive to succeed at the highest level and I’m sure oppositions around the world will be happy to see the back of their black jerseys. 

The fact that it’s all of these legends, excluding Tony Woodcock who is injured, last game adds more to this already massive occasion.  It will be hard to replace them but that is the challenge of every new All Black; To live up to the ones who went before.

The Crims have had the wood over us at World Cups and currently lead the tally 2 to 1. They also beat us this year in Sydney in a tight one. We did give them a lesson a week later and put 40 points on them but Pocock didn’t play in that one.

The game is so close now and when I think about it, my stomach gets knotted and I feel a 12-year-old about to hold a girls hand for the first time. Nervously excited.

There have already been two World Cup Finals this year in games that the English invented. The Cricket one-day final was contested between the  New Zealand Black Caps, and the Australian Cricket Team (there is no other team in the world than I hate more than the sledging low life’s that make up the Australian Cricket Team).

The Netball final was contested between New Zealand Silver Ferns and the Australian Diamonds (lovely women by all accounts).  The Green and Golds were favourites in both of those games and in both to their credit they got the job done.

But this is Rugby, this is our game, our passion, this is our flag in the ground. Rugby is the fourth biggest sport in the Australia. The game has been struggling for support there for the past few years, but Aussies do love a winner so for now they are all back on board.

The thought of the bragging rights the Australians will have if they win this game is enough to make you want to throw up. There is nothing worse for kiwi than losing to Australians. There just isn’t, but, on the other hand, there is nothing better than sticking one up your big brother.

There are a lot of people out there who don’t really like All Black fans and I can understand that, we are arrogant, uptight and we think that if our team plays well we will always win. So during a tournament where we have been shown before that our arrogance has not been founded on fact and we have choked when it really counted it has the tendency to make us paranoid neurotic and kind of unpleasant.

On the other hand, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who really dislikes New Zealanders in general. We are chilled out, welcoming, and love to laugh. So this weekend you are not only watching New Zealand’s biggest source of National Pride, you are watching our biggest source of National uncontrolled nervous bowel movements.

Who’s going to win? My head and my heart say New Zealand… but I have been wrong before. C’MON BLACK!!

– Tony O’Sullivan | @Tones88


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