By Lee Stace
IT HAS been brilliant to see Auckland – and the rest of New Zealand, for that matter – gripped by Rugby World Cup fever.
But this scribe has one lingering thought: will it last should, heaven forbid, the All Blacks once again cho… I mean, fail to do the business at rugby’s big old song and dance?
We are being great hosts at the moment. There is no doubt about that. Driving around Auckland, it has been an absolute joy to see flags flying high and fans cramming into the airport to welcome some of our international rugby cousins who are vying for the biggest prize in the game.
Friendly and welcoming, we are giving tourists the true Kiwi experience at the moment. For that, we need to give ourselves a big pat on the back.
But what if – and when I say this, I’m being a realist not a negative nelly – the All Blacks lose? It could happen. History has shown that our national team has a habit of coming unstuck at the big one.
Hopefully (touch wood, pray to Jesus, Allah or some higher spiritual power, people) it doesn’t happen and Richie McCaw is the first player to get his paws on ‘Bill’ when the referee signals no-side on October 23 at Eden Park.
If it does go wrong, however, then it’s scary to think how New Zealanders will react. Right now, most people cannot get enough of the RWC, but the Men in Black losing in the quarter-finals or in the semis could change that.
For you see, we have a tendency of reacting badly when things don’t go to plan at the RWC.
You only need to look at the fallout following Cardiff in 2007 for proof. The way some of us behaved following that 20-18 loss to France was, quite frankly, disgraceful. Rather than stay on and enjoy the rest of the tournament, a large number of New Zealanders who were in that part of the world at the time began offloading their semifinal and finals tickets.
Disappointing stuff. It really was.
Regardless of what happens on the field this time around, it is important that we remain gracious in victory and, should it occur, defeat as well. Packing a sad will only give the 95,000 tourists who are expected to grace our shores over the next six and a half weeks a bad impression of New Zealand and the people who live here.
From what Yours Truly has witnessed so far, we’re on the right track. Hopefully we as a nation have grown up and we do the RWC justice.
There are plenty of mouth-watering clashes on offer this weekend.
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Gordon Tietjens’ success in sevens is unrivalled and should place him in the same coaching league as Sir Alex Ferguson.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen named a 38-man training squad and there are a couple of oversights worth highlighting