It’s OK, mate

I don’t really know much about rugby. I’ve only ever been to one rugby game, which was in 1990, when I wagged my fifth form typing class to see the Hillcrest High first XV play some visiting school. I remember being vaguely impressed by those “line out” things.

17 years later, I haven’t even watched a rugby game on TV. When I see one, it just looks like a bunch of guys running around on a grass field, and sometimes skidding over lines or kicking the ball into places that makes the crowds cheer.

But I’m a New Zealander. I live in New Zealand. And therefore I can’t not be exposed to rugby in some form. It’s everywhere.

And this year I was kind of getting into the Rugby World Cup commentary and discussion over at Public Address’s Some Foreign Field, and enjoyed I the lively podcasts from the lads (and occasional lass) at The Dropkicks and I was thinking that this whole rugby, All Blacks and Rugby World Cup thing might be worth getting into for entertainment purposes.

But, well, I didn’t get around to it, and now the All Blacks, aka “we”, have lost the quarter-final against France and everyone is really really bummed. Or something starting with F that Anton Oliver was bleeped saying on the news tonight.

I understand that the people of Aotearoa are angry with the ref for turning a blind eye to a forward pass and/or the coach for his controversial resting and rotation policy and/or the players for sucking. But despite all the misery (and, oh, there were some miserable people out there on the streets today), people aren’t giving up. They’re not saying, “Oh, we’ll never win the Rugby World Cup!” They’re saying, “Now it’ll be 24 years until we win the cup again!” There’s hope.

The thing is, New Zealand is the one country in the world where rugby union is the be-all, end-all sport. Other countries, like Wales and various Pacific Island nations, do like the egg-ball game, but most countries are hot for football. Only New Zealand has its national identity sewn up so tightly with rugby.

But what I don’t quite understand is why the Rugby World Cup is considered the last word in rugby supremacy. I mean, the Olympics are another quadrennial competition, but we don’t discount the non-Olympic sporting competitions – regional and word championships – that happen in the interim years.

And what happened prior to 1987 when there was no Rugby World Cup? Was there a niggling fear that perhaps, while the All Blacks were quite good, maybe they weren’t actually all that good? Not even!

I reckon if we can love New Zealand, if we be so nationally proud that we call New Zealand Godzone, then surely it’s enough to know in our Aotearoan hearts that the All Blacks are the best rugby team in the world regardless of how they do in any Rugby World Cup competition.

Winning the World Cup should be the icing on the cake, not a definitive statement on how good the All Blacks are.

Oh, cheer up.

13 thoughts on “It’s OK, mate”

  1. Nicely put Robyn.

    I’ve never seen a love of rugby as essential to being a NZer – not liking Feijoas however is another matter – but it’s certainly a part of how I see myself. Looks like Wellington’s got a chance in the NPC (or whatever its become). Winning that’d help me.

  2. I am well over it (although I’m trying hard not to pick at the metaphorical scabs). But I have to say that Wellingtonians (I don’t know about the rest of the country) is having to deal with actual rain and wind and thunderstorms which don’t help ease “sadness” as much as sunshine.

  3. Hadyn,

    From my home office I just watch the planes coming into Wn Airport being buffeted around like, well, a pea in a ref’s whistle, and it cheers me up no end, because I’m not flying on them.

    Best comment, in a grim sort of way, from some Scots guy leaving the game, who called out to some NZers “belts and shoelaces, please!”

  4. Your comments are bang on, Robyn. As an Otago supporter from way back I’m pretty used to watching my team lose a tight game thanks to dubious refereeing & poor tactics in the final minutes, so I’m not too upset.

    Can we all agree to STFU about the RWC for 3 years? Please?

  5. Jo, I don’t quite understand it myself. Not only have I managed to write something about the rugby, but it’s been appreciated by blokes who care about the rugby. Um… help?

  6. Rowbins, as you know, I’m in the same boat as you, South Africa is just as obsessed and the only time I’ve ever been to a rugby game was in high school when we were forced to watch the 1st team play when we were in our first year.

    But when the world cup comes round you can’t throw a stick without hitting someone discussing our chances and what we’re doing wrong (or even right sometimes).

    If it makes any of you NZr’s feel any better, when we speak about the All Blacks, it is in hushed tones and we look around nervously in case Jona Lomu happens to be around the corner listening. I get the sense that we’re all pretty relieved that we’re not going to have to face you guys now that you’ve been knocked out.

    Well played. Better luck next time.

  7. After 1997, I never assume the AB’s will win a game, so it was no surprise that they didn’t, sure I was disappointed, but got over it after 5 minutes. Yes the ref had a part to play, but he didn’t drop the ball, twice, while camped on the French try line.

    Why is the WWE trophy so important? Because it’s the last word, just like any “world” title. (Soccer, Baseball, tiddly winks). Before then no one could say “we’re the best”, everyone was only as good as their last win. Now you get to be called the “World Champion Rugby Team” for the next four years, every time you play someone, even if you lose, you are still the champ until the next cup. Same as being an Olympic Champion.

  8. I saw Lomu in Moore Wilson’s a while back. He didn’t look so impressive! I said to my wife “He’s not so big, I reckon I could take him”

    I suppose he might have been a bit bigger from less than 50 metres away.

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