The rugby rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand is back on an even keel, with Kiwi fans and players wary once again of their African opponents. Just in time for the Rugby World Cup.
my rugby WhatsApp group is densely populated with New Zealand fans, a bunch who – given the All Blacks’ status as back-to-back champions in the previous two Rugby World Cups – can be sniffily superior at best, insufferable at worst.
To drop broad hints as to the authenticity of their support, the boys have generally adopted an affected familiarity with all things All Black when they talk about the Brazil of rugby union.
The players are on a first name basis, coach Steve Hansen and predecessor Graham Henry are “Shag” and “Ted” respectively. And a few years ago, the issue that bugged them within the New Zealand game was the presence of the name of insurance giants AIG on the front of their precious team’s black jersey.
But since the Springboks drew 16-16 against the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship clash on 27 July in Wellington, New Zealand, life has been a bit more bearable in the group for the non-Men in Black fans.
Jitters among All Blacks fans
The smugness (someone demanded that the All Blacks be handed this year’s World Cup trophy after a particularly impressive victory last year) has been eroded somewhat and replaced with grumbles about the black juggernaut supposedly springing a few leaks.
Someone went so far as to accuse Hansen of losing the plot with his insistence on starting an ageing and barely fit Sonny Bill Williams at inside centre against the Boks, and his left-field attempts at dealing with the All Blacks’ real issue, the lack of a world-class blindside flanker.
The Williams “problem” is merely preferential. The latter is the real concern because Jerome Kaino’s departure has left a redoubtable void. The advertisement for his replacement reads, “Wanted: A tough bastard in possession of both flash and substance.
This article was initially published at newframe