1. Please don’t grow a mo but not register and get sponsors. Money helps!
The black uniform is the highest honour in any New Zealand code – the dress for the Silver Ferns, the singlet for the Tall Blacks, the bike pants for the cyclists and the constantly discussed black jersey for the All Blacks.
Wearing black for your country, with the silver fern on your chest, means that you represent all four-million odd (some more odd than others) kiwis. As mere spectators, we may not understand the ins and outs of every sport. We will certainly criticise form, haircuts and interview techniques, but slap a black uniform and a silver fern on an athlete and by golly we’re behind you all the way. Especially when you win.
The most famous of our uniforms is the All Blacks black jersey. Young rugby players dream of earning one. Old men boast of ‘nearly’ wearing one. The honour and passion instilled in it continues to be huge, even when some fans do their best to devalue it by wearing it with sneens (sneakers and jeans – this is WRONG).
Donning the black jersey turns a rugby player into a women’s magazine regular, a role model for children, a front person for unlikely sponsor products and the bearer of the nation’s hopes.
There are ups and downs of such responsibility and fame, but one thing that players surely must feel is a sense of gratitude and relief that our national colour is black – a colour that flatters every complexion, barely shows grass stains, and best of all, is fabulously slimming.
It has been said that the All Blacks have an unfair advantage, starting the game after a rousing haka, but the black jersey must also be a confidence booster. Picture the young Australian player, walking on to the paddock for his first test match, ears strapped back, painfully aware that yellow does absolutely nothing for their complexion. Think of the South African, with his face gently reflecting the green of his jersey, or an Argentinean, aware that his baby blue uniform will soon be blue and brown. These awkward moments are something that our team doesn’t have to go through.
Fortunate indeed are All Blacks in their home strip of jet black. Of course, like all good supporters, I’m confident that these manliest of men and could have turned even the white alternative strip to their advantage, creating an illusion of a forward pack with even broader shoulders.
I was brought up to be polite to those hosting me at their place, and it was good to read prior to the tournament that the Canadian team would respectfully choose to wear their red strip when facing the All Blacks during pool play. Just a few days ago the French elected to follow their lead, winning the ‘toss for colours’ before the final, but choosing not to make the All Blacks dress in white for the final. Merci Les Bleus!
The decision makers/stylists of history decided well when they made black the official colour of New Zealand. We stand out amongst the multiple reds, blues, whites, greens and yellows. Tomorrow, when our heroes take the field for the final tomorrow, they’ll show that are far superior to every other team – sartorially and on the scoreboard.
ALLEZ LES NOIR!
We’re now at the pointy end of RWC2011, which means that it’s harder to fake knowledge of the game. This might help.
Rugby is something that should be passed down from generation to generation, along with family traditions, recipes and jokes. My earliest rugby memories involve me getting up in the middle of the night to watch games on my Grandfather’s TV that was more cabinet than screen. My early rugby knowledge was gleaned from his opinions and Keith Quinn’s commentary. My understanding was patchy – but I’ve heard Murray Deaker say the game is too hard to understand, so I’m in good company.
Rugby is not the simplest of games – for a start, the goal is to get the ball across a line that is in front of you, but have to throw the ball backwards. Perhaps starting at the beginning will help.
Colloquial history tells us that William Webb Ellis was the first football player who ‘picked up the ball and ran with it’ in 1823, thus inspiring the game of rugby. In honour of this small rebellion, the trophy attached to the Rugby World Cup is called the Webb Ellis Cup. I find it encouraging that even though Rugby (his school) was undoubtedly for the upper class, his double-barrelled surname wasn’t hyphenated. This reinforces that rugby isn’t just for the privileged, but for all.
New Zealand has its own rugby pioneer, Charles Munro who brought the game home from Christ’s College in England. A re-enactment took place in Nelson recently. I sincerely hope they made as much effort to dress up as the confederate soldiers do in Sweet Home Alabama.
But on to the modern game…
Teams: Each team has 15 players on the field and up to seven reserves on the bench. That’s a total of 22, which is also the name of one of the lines on the field. This seems to be a coincidence.
The point of the game: Two teams play each other – each trying to get points by getting the ball to the other team’s end of the field. It makes the game more exciting for spectators if the teams are reasonably evenly matched or if some of the players make spectacular plays or errors. It doesn’t hurt if they’re easy on the eye either.
Scoring: The best kind of scoring is the try – this is when a player touches the ball over the try-line at the far end of the field. The ultimate try is when a player from the team you support sprints down the field, mowing down the opposition and then skidding dramatically across the line. Some believe that this kind of try should get extra points, but the rules state that tries, no matter how dramatic, score five points. Following a try, the opportunity to score an additional two points is awarded, and the nominated kicker (usually, but not always the #10) attempts to get the ball over the goalposts. Penalty kicks are sometimes awarded, for three points. We don’t really like these.
Offside rule: This goes back to where we started – you have to pass the ball backwards. A player in front of the ball is not allowed to receive any advantage without being pinged. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main ones is surely that it looks cool when the attacking players all run forward in an attractive shape not unlike birds in formation.
Kicking: It is totally okay to kick the ball forward.
Line-out: In the round ball game we know as soccer or football they just throw the ball in when it goes out of bounds. In rugby, when Team A puts the ball into touch, someone from Team B gets to throw the ball in, but instead of chucking it straight to one of their own guys, they have to throw it in a straight line between their own team and the opposition. Rugby’s way is much more exciting, because it gives the forwards (the big guys with the small numbers on their backs) a chance to be the stars as they throw each other into the air in an attempt to get to the ball before the other team.
Scrum: Crouch, touch, pause, engage. Apparently the scrum is a safe way to restart the game. It looks a bit like a reverse tug of war, with players attempting to gain ground so that their Hooker (number 2) can get the ball to the back of the scrum so that it can be rescued by the number 8 or 9 and then be freed to be run up the field once more.
The Field: A rugby field is 100m long and 70m wide. It has been this way for ages and remains the same even though new camera angles may appear to make it square. There is a big H of a goalpost at each end. These goalposts shrink when your least successful kicker is on, and grow for the opposition.
Time: It is indeed a game of two 40 minute halves. With a break in the middle for team talks, toilet stops and the chance to get some more hot chips.
We’re at quarter-finals time for Rugby World Cup 2011. This means that 12 of the teams (that’s 360 players) have packed their bags and gone back to whence they came, and eight teams have reached what is attractively referred to as the ‘sudden death’ stage of the tournament. This means that for every game from now on (other than the 3rd and 4th playoff match), if you lose, you’re gone.
These are the eight teams that are still in the running to become the World’s Next Top Rugby Team, a brief look at their tournament so far and my thoughts on their future in the competition.
Quarter-final 1: Ireland v Wales, Saturday 8 October, 6pm, Wellington
Ireland won us over with their enthusiasm, incomprehensible interviews (mainly coach Declan Kidney, due to accent related difficulties) and winning all three of their pool matches, including a 15-6 win over Australia, which filled us all with exceedingly great joy. This put them firmly at the top of Pool C and turned them into the favourite Northern Hemisphere team for many Kiwis. I’m still not sure what I think of a dude nicknamed BOD, even if it is his nickname, but this is great for Ireland, a nation that is still hurting after the whole Thierry Henri incident in the Football World Cup qualifier a couple of years ago. Yes, that was cross-code referencing, keep up. I like Ireland. They’re like family. That’ll be the Irish heritage. Anyone know where you can get ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ t-shirts?
Oh those Welsh. They nearly beat South Africa, but they didn’t. They’re still here though and they have a Kiwi coach in Warren Gatland, so we like them. Don’t think they’ll win this game though. But who knows, the tournament is only really getting started and we’re likely to have a few surprises.
Quarter –final 2: England v France, Saturday 8 October, 8:30pm, Auckland
England are all a bit of a yawn really. We’ve talked more about the off-field antics of the Queen’s G-I-L than their games, and Jonny Wilkinson is getting talked about like he’s a geriatric at only 32. Coach Martin Johnson won as a player two tournaments ago, but that that was ages ago, so who knows. There doesn’t seem to be much affection from them. I may be half English, but that half of my heritage couldn’t care less about the oval ball, so I can’t bring myself to support them.
We have strong feelings about the French ever since they ruined all of our lives at the quarter-finals of the last world cup. But the team is apparently in disarray and in spite of Takapuna’s best efforts to make them at home and Tonga’s best efforts to show them how the game is played, I don’t think Les Coqs will win this weekend. A bientot France.
Quarter-final 3: South Africa v Australia, Sunday 9 October 6pm, Wellington
South Africa are the reigning champions, and they are really annoying and rough so we don’t want them to win. They topped Pool D but they have some serious missing talent with Bakkies Botha and Francois Steyn both out. Plus I don’t want them to win.
I like Australia, some of my best friends are Australians. Although it has taken several years of not working in sport to stop seeing Australian athletes as my personal enemy, I think they have a few things to teach us about commitment and winning (not the Charlie Sheen kind). But man, I really, really love it when we beat Australia so I want them to win this weekend so that we can thrash them in the semi-final. Is that too much to ask?
Quarter-final 4: New Zealand v Argentina, Sunday 9 October, 8:30pm, Auckland
Ah, the All Blacks. They haven’t had a real challenge during this tournament yet and Argentina is unlikely to stretch them much. It has been great to see some of the rising stars like Izzy Dagg show us what they can do and even if we have lost Dan Carter and have some worrying niggles, I have faith that they can nail the game this weekend. I’m a little more nervous about the following one, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves… again. I’m on Team Slade – I hope young Colin gets a good run this weekend. I think he’ll come right on the kicking and would like to remind you all that when Dan Carter came on the scene he wasn’t as smooth-faced and calm as he is now and there were people who said ‘He’s no Mehrtens.’ Go Colin!
Argentina did beat Romania and Georgia, but they’ve been a little disappointing this tournament. They haven’t been getting many test matches, but there’s hope that being part of the quad-nations will help their game. I wanted them to do well because South Americans are really fun and I love the musical Evita.
What comes next?
Semi-final 1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2, Saturday 15 October, 9pm
Semi-final 2: Winner QF2 v Winner QF3, Sunday 16 October, 9pm
Bronze-final: Loser SF1 v Loser SF2, Friday 21 October, 8:30pm
Final: Winner SF1 v Winner SF2, Sunday 23 October, 9pm
GO THE ALL BLACKS!
John Afoa aka Animal terrorises the crowd at a public appearanc
John Afoa aka Animal terrorises the crowd at a public appearance
When engaging in rugby conversations or watching a game, it helps to know a few facts about players – their position, past players they’re not quite as good as, and more importantly nicknames. Commenting “Ted doesn’t look happy” may not be a groundbreaking observation, but it does show that you know who the All Black coach is.
Nicknames are something men like to give one another, to create an environment of intimacy, or as they may prefer ‘mateship’. It’s much simpler in Australia where you add ‘Y’ or ‘O’ to a name – e.g. Warney and Steveo. In New Zealand we have historically had a less predictable approach with famous nicknames including Inga the Winger (my childhood favourite player Va’aiga Tuigamala), Pinetree (the legendary Sir Colin Meads, named Player of the Century), and J-Lo (the obvious diminutive for the man mountain that is Jonah Lomu). Okay, I may have invented the last one, but I would like to see it picked up by the international media by the end of the tournament. Please humour me in this.
It’s well documented that the moniker your parents give you at birth can have a significant impact on your life. We have all giggled childishly at characters on American sitcoms called Randy or felt sorry for the school kid with the name that’s too big for them. I can only assume that some rugby players are given their nicknames before they grow out of ‘the awkward phase’ – Richard Kahui is too handsome to be known as Kaks, and the nicknames Horey (Andrew Hore) and Woody (Tony Woodcock) are both a little bit juvenile and obvious.
I was shocked to read that our brave hero, I mean All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw is not just Richie (think of other one-name legends like Madonna, Pele, Oprah and Lassie), but apparently also answers to Fluffy. Quelle horreur! One can only hope that John Afoa can bring some Animal back into the team.
The mind-bending moniker isn’t solely the property of the New Zealand rugby player. A glance through rugby history shows us that there have been some that evoke awe, and others that are more… cuddly.
There’s been Welsh First Five Neil Jenkins who was also known as the Ginger Monster. English Prop Jason Leonard OBE also went by The Fun Bus (and comes from Barking, tee hee). Poor old Irish Hooker Keith Wood was variously called The Raging Potato and Uncle Fester. I’m sure he has a wonderful personality. More recently, the unkind amongst us have enjoyed comparing fresh-faced Australian James O’Connor with Justin Beiber. Let’s be fair though, he’s not a child, he was born all the way back in 1990. Plus he looks much more like that guy from Westlife.
With all due respect, I’d rather be a Goldie than a GG, but nothing can beat the title given to former French Centre Philippe Sella – L’Incomparable. But to bring it back to basics, we’ve got to front up, give no quarter and remember that there’s only one title that matters. Champion.
Bring back Buck!
How to rugby #2
Fan lessons: What to wear to a rugby game
If you want to fit in at the rugby, there are some things you should consider before finalising your match-day look.
1. Wearing high heels to Eden Park is like wearing a Shania Twain tee-shirt to a Metallica concert. In other words, do not do this, even if you’re in a corporate box. If you simply must find some extra height, perhaps you could consider the wedge – a rule of thumb, if your shoe could damage the field, it should not be worn to the game.
2. Know your team colours. If you’re a Chiefs supporter like me (I understand your pain) and they’re playing the Blues, avoid wearing blue at all costs. The correct colours to wear are black, red and yellow. This becomes more complicated when the Chiefs are playing the Hurricanes or Crusaders as the team colours are two thirds the same. You’ve got to feel sorry for Hurricanes supporters, hardly anyone can pull off yellow. Look at poor Queen Elizabeth at the royal wedding.
Now that the ITM Cup (which you probably still call the NPC, much to the pain of those involved with the sponsorship) is underway, you might like to consider your winter wardrobe now, so that you’re prepared for any last minute invitations to a game. Should you not know your team colours (or name), there’s a website that can help you!
3. Find out where your seats are – are they covered? Are you sitting on concrete? Are the seats located in the middle of a wind tunnel? Hats are both warming and help you avoid unsightly flyaway hair. As always, think carefully about your hat choice or you could look unattractive, or worse, like a hipster.
There are many intricacies of what is and isn’t okay when it comes to your ‘sport-watching’ wear. If you’re overwhelmed, black is best, then take note of the best-dressed around you and do your best to emulate their style.
Image thanks to Best Charleston Bootcamp, who give many reasons to abstain from wearing high heels. Eek!
I’ve long held that experts in most fields invent terms and generally describe straightforward things in terms that are as convoluted as possible so that the uninitiated feel confused and in awe of the few who can understand. This makes sense with brain surgery, but not so much when we’re all meant to be part of a ‘stadium of four million’ (SOFM). To help you out dear reader, here is my take on The Breakdown.
When I hear someone say breakdown, there are a number of meanings that come to mind;
- What happens to your car, even the day after you’ve had a full service.
- How you feel after you hear the estimate for fixing the aforementioned car.
- A list of numbers outlining why there is no money in your bank account and that it is probably something to do with your new shoes, haircut and/or drinks with the gang.
- What happens to most New Zealand males when their favourite sports team fails to make it past the quarter-finals in a significant international tournament.
However, in rugby, the breakdown means something quite different and is a term thrown around in interviews all the time by everyone from Graham Henry (aka Ted) and Dan Carter (I still can’t believe the awful white pants I spotted you wearing at Dominion Road Countdown that time).
In simple terms, the breakdown refers to the moments straight after a tackle. Players from both teams attempt to gain possession, first with their hands (nice or otherwise) then with their feet (rucking). There is the potential for exciting steals and also for all kinds of infringements.
A few media mentions of the breakdown include:
“…with Adam Thomson returning from injury they further bolster their chances at the breakdown as he looks to add to his eight turnover wins this season.”
“Scott Waldrom starred last week winning two breakdown turnovers and scoring two tries. He is the third best New Zealand flanker behind Matt Todd and Adam Thomson for stealing ball at the breakdown.”
NZ Herald 29 April
“In other matches, the Stormers won the battle of the breakdown and scored four unanswered tries to overwhelm the Sharks 32-12 in Cape Town.”
SMH 2 May
And a whole article Crusaders breakdown a weak link, posted today: