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Letters from the Southern Man
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Posted by Iain on Oct. 30, 2015, 6:26 p.m. in Rugby World Cup
As we head into this weekend’s Rugby World Cup final the results of a survey released this week has sent shock waves throughout the land. Apparently a majority don’t really care if the All Blacks win or lose this weekend!
Shock horror, only 37% of New Zealanders apparently give a toss about the Rugby World Cup and winning it.
‘This cannot be’ some have exclaimed around the water coolers in offices across New Zealand.
‘Gotta be joking mate’ the farmers cry across the fence to their next door neighbour.
‘They only surveyed 300 people’ snorted some sports jock a night or two ago on television.
But what if the survey is right (and I expect it is)? What does it tell us about this country, our people and our values?
Do we really have a clear majority that no longer care? Aren’t we meant to have rugby as our main religion? Have black blood flowing through our veins? Assess our value as a nation by what happens on that rugby field?
It demonstrates to me we have grown up. We don’t measure nor value ourselves based on what happens on a sports field and nor should we.
There are a great many New Zealanders who would clearly be more interested in the Badminton or Ping Pong World Cup given the number of Chinese migrants we have in New Zealand. Or the Football World Cup given the number of Brits that live here.
I think it reflects the fact that New Zealand is a true ‘rainbow nation’.
I have long thought (but dared not to utter the thought whilst in South Africa) that it is not and never has been a ‘rainbow nation’. It was an illusion. A convenient one and I might add ‘nice try’ back in 1994. Hoping that everyone will pull together and build a nation is a catchy phrase. It's just that it hasn’t happened.
New Zealand is far more a ‘rainbow nation’ than South Africa ever was or will be. We have 42% of Aucklanders (representing some 600,000 people) who were not born in this country. Over 20% of those that live in New Zealand are from 140 different countries. My children went to a primary school where there were children representing 41 different nationalities. As I have written about many times, we just get on with one another – we don’t need the slogans. We don’t need to wear rugby jerseys as a symbol of our nationhood. And we don’t need the All Blacks to win as some measure of our national self-worth.
Don’t get me wrong – the All Blacks speak to that diversity, a symbol of coming together as one but they are at the end of the day a sporting team. Sure, they say much about who we are as a people but even that is changing. No Indian All Blacks yet. No Chinese All Blacks despite those ethnicities making up around 25% of Auckland’s population.
Rugby is just not their gig.
And no one cares or takes any sort of offence. No one is calling for ‘transformation’ so we get a rugby team that represents the racial make up of the country.
It almost seems that if everyone wears a Springbok jersey in the week before a big game in South Africa it proves to others (if not to the wearer) that the rainbow nation is alive and well and there is hope that a better tomorrow will happen. I can’t blame them for wanting to hope but I’d not be pinning all my hopes on a better day thanks to a rugby team and what happens between those two sets of goalposts.
And perhaps that is how it now is in New Zealand.
The survey was right – the All Blacks winning or losing is of interest to some but perhaps no longer a majority.
This is a very good thing in my view.
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on Oct. 29, 2011, 2:35 p.m. in Rugby World Cup
It’s over. It’s finally over.
The ghosts of 1991 to 2007 have finally been laid to rest. The mighty All Blacks who so dominate world rugby year in and year out have finally secured their second Rugby World Cup. The RWC monkey (gorilla?) is now firmly off their backs.
Deserved winners they were if I may say so myself. Being the objective observer I am of course.
What a struggle it has been. Late nights, excessive drinking, lots of partying, endless fun, frayed nerves, tension, loss of sleep – and that’s just the players. What about us poor suckers who had to live it with them?
Late nights, excessive drinking, partying, sleep loss, tension, chewed fingernails, teasing friends around the world (mainly South Africa for obvious reasons….) – we may as well have played the games. It has been really, really tough.
I couldn’t have gone another week. If this tournament had been eight weeks long rather than six I’d be booking a consultation with a transplant specialist about now – my liver is shot and it just couldn’t take any more.
What a great ride it has been.
Watching the final from the new stand at Eden Park on Sunday was truly special. It was not the game so many people had been expecting and having written off the French in the week leading up to the final as being unworthy a great many of us had to swallow (actually choke might have been the word of the day) humble pie as they not only proved worthy finalists they could, with an extra Powerade or two, possibly even have won.
Last week I was offered three tickets and turned them down – my ‘final’ had been the All Blacks versus the Wallabies and taking my family to what was a truly great game. Now there was an All Black team at their dominant best – they’d have crushed anyone that night.
Later in the week I was again offered a ticket and this time I thought I just had to be there. How could I not go to a World Cup final that was being played just a ten minute walk from my home? In my city and in my country? Was I crazy? Perhaps just hung over...
I totalled up what I had spent on tickets to three pool games and a semi and thought – I’ve spent enough. I could buy a car with what I have paid to watch the Samoans, Fijians, English, Scots, Wallabies, French and All Blacks! And I had been to the pool match where the ABs despatched the French with consummate ease. Why waste more money?
Simply, and after another 23 seconds consideration, I said to myself I just had to be there – even if it was going to be a one sided affair. I was being called. The atmosphere at Eden Park had been tremendous all tournament. Games watched in high spirits – colourful fans, great organisation, a world class stadium organised to run like a Swiss watch.
I was right on all fronts bar one.
I should have known that a final is different. Players grow another leg. The French grew several and what had been billed as a bit of an anti-climax turned out to be a gripping final. Some have said it wasn’t pretty – well to me it was. A true test match. Beautiful from kick off to the 80th minute. Pitting two teams of ‘die for the cause’ players against one another at one of the great rugby grounds in the world cheered on by 61,000 fans at the park, another 4 million at home and many millions more around the world was something I will never forget.
From the time the French players formed their ‘V’ for victory sign when confronted with the haka we all knew we were in for something special. And of course the French have long been the All Blacks bogey team.
Eighty minutes of grinding rugby later the stadium erupted in delight (or possibly blessed disbelief). Personally my joy lasted about two minutes – then I started to simply feel relief. Relief that the team and the country had pulled off something pretty remarkable.
The IRB had said that giving the Cup to NZ was a bit of a risk. We are too small, not enough people, stadia too small, TV time zone issues and all that but they were the first to state on Sunday evening that it was probably the best World Cup in the 24 year history of the event.
So much was done so well by so many so unobtrusively.
When international media and team management wanted things done – in tournaments past they had been told no, not possible. Here it was – hang on a minute, give me a bit of time and I will see what I can do. And do we did. With beaming smiles.
I note even our Australian cousins at the Sydney Morning Herald gave New Zealand ‘11 out of 10’ for the way the event was pulled together and run.
Clearly the reason for its success was New Zealanders embraced this tournament like none before have done.
The concept of the stadium of 4 million was deemed a bit cheesy but it was well on the mark (not sure what the other 416,000 New Zealanders were doing for six weeks).
Whole cities, towns and schools adopted different countries. Teams were based in many regions around the country and made to feel more welcome than they had expected and ended up enjoying so much more than simply the rugby. When the Georgians played the Romanians in Rotorua for example half the crowd turned up wearing yellow and half red.
When the Irish team played in Dunedin they seriously thought that 20,000 Irish supporters had flown into the country. The truth was there were only 3000 of them! The rest were locals. The same at Eden Park for their pool match against the Aussies where out of a crowd of 60,000 I would suggest 55,000 were supporting Ireland (arguably not just reflecting the fact many of us have Irish ancestry but more the friendly rivalry that exists between NZ and our neighbours across the Tasman). The rest were New Zealanders dressed in green. Every team was made to feel like they were playing at home. It was something the organisers wanted and New Zealanders, being the friendly welcoming, sport crazy nuts we are, took them all into our hearts and homes.
By all accounts the players had a great time.
As did the 100,000 or so tourists that have jumped out of planes, bungeed off bridges, visited Milford Sound, enjoyed our beautiful countryside, swum with dolphins, been fishing, enjoyed great coffee in little cafes in picturesque small towns, ate at some of the best restaurants in the world, skydived, drunk some great wines at some of the world’s best wineries, experienced street theatre, local beer and local pubs, played golf on world class golf courses and generally had the time of their lives.
So many said that they had been on many holidays before and had high expectations that were not met – this time they had equally high expectations and they were exceeded. Indeed according to many, smashed.
Little things like New Zealanders taking perfect strangers into their homes for four week so they got a real NZ experience during the World Cup and being loaned motorcars, binoculars, cameras and all sorts of things to people who were basically total strangers.
But such is the way of the people of this country. It is what makes it special.
The country used the opportunity to showcase fashion (probably a bigger exporter than you might imagine), high end manufacturing, food and our IT industries as well as our more traditional primary industries such as farming, fishing and horticulture.
Contacts were made, relationships forged, dollars flowed.
Having enjoyed this opportunity to showcase our country to the world, I think we are all now somewhat exhausted. It’s been really hard work having this much fun.
Having thought that this might be the last time that we would get to host the event the fact we pulled it off so well has already lead to talk that the tournament will return.
Roll on 2030 – I hope by then my liver has recovered.
Until next week,
Seminars – Our final round for the year are coming up in South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore. Tell your friends about 'the little country that could' and come and hear what we have to share with you about it and the new lives that await migrants to this wonderful country.