We’re pleased to welcome a guest article from ‘The Beak’, a New Zealander concerned about the mounting pressure on his beloved All Blacks ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Pressure, they say, can turn coal into diamonds. But it’s also been known to turn gold into silver or bronze. On occasion, it’ll even turn the stuff into manganese – or whatever it is you get for coming 8th.
That’s what New Zealand was left clutching after getting knocked out of the 2007 Rugby World Cup by the lowest-finishing semi finalist, France. It was the first time they’d failed to make the top four and it continued a long sequence of disappointing results at the tournament. A sequence that’s becoming increasingly difficult for kiwi fans to…ahem…choke down.
The All Blacks will be under immense pressure to make amends by winning their second world title on home soil next October. The pressure is already getting to the country. Literally. The South Island recently broke out in a shudder that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale and levelled swathes of Christchurch.
All that anxiety is being exacerbated by the All Blacks’ woeful build-up, which has seen them sweep through the Tri Nations undefeated, bagging 10 straight wins over Australia – their closest rivals at the top of the world order. That’s the sort of scintillating form that, just one year out from a world cup, is regarded as poison in New Zealand.
But you knew that, didn’t you? Of course you did. Because you’re all architects of the peak-between-world cups mind games that keep kiwis second-guessing their rugby team. Bravo. Job well done. You’ve got us tied in knots. Up is down, winning is losing, sideways is sideways, and forward is backward. Wayne Barnes taught us that last one.
You should know that it’s not just ill-advised winning streaks that put the fear into New Zealanders. We’re also in an awful panic about having two of the sport’s best players on our team. We fret endlessly about what would happen if McCaw and Carter were injured. So much so that it would seem easier to drop them and be done with it. Better to take charge of your destiny and all that.
Actually that’s not a bad idea. We did win a World Cup without them once.
As if the paranoia isn’t enough, we also have to put up with our mates from across the Tasman getting wise. Yes, Australia, that colossus of psychological subterfuge is constantly reminding us of our world cup frailties without actually saying it.
Ex-Wallaby skipper, John Eales, kicked it off with a recent piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, saying: “Time may move slowly for the All Blacks as they exist in the shadow of the World Cup – 24 hours a day, for the next 360 odd days,”
Subtle ain’t he? Subtle like a 2-metre lock.
But with all due respect to John Eales and any other pundit who wants to heap “pressure” on the All Blacks…it’s futile. The best pressure is made right here in New Zealand. It is, unfortunately, one of the few things we do better than play rugby.
Don’t believe it? How’s this. Despite all the fear and dread, we’ve turned out in numbers to back the All Blacks for next year’s tournament. That’s because as pressure aficionados, we know that panic and paranoia is worth nothing unless it’s accompanied by a weight of expectation. The weight of a nation, as it were.
Well, we’ve got that covered. Six out of ten locals predicted an All Black victory as far back as March. We weren’t even good at the time. New Zealand had lost three on the trot to South Africa and, even worse, had only won six straight against Australia. Yet we still had stars in our eyes.
That’s probably a symptom of the arrogance that makes you detest us boastful idiots, right? Yeah, that was a rhetorical question. We don’t care what you think.
While you can call it arrogance, euphemists like me will rebadge that flagrant sense of superiority as “resilient self-belief”. The stuff of champions. Maybe it even shows that we choking kiwis aren’t as doubt-ridden and mentally frail as everyone thinks.
But don’t let it annoy you. Just comfort yourself that our brazen positivity is actually a destructive force that adds to the pressure. You should encourage it. Make comforting ah-ha sounds and nod your head. It might be hard to do but it could ultimately help crush the All Blacks for good. I know it sounds unlikely but trust me, I’m a New Zealander. You should support us.
If you feel compelled to do anything more to pressurize the boys in black, then visit www.wait-of-a-nation.com. It’s a web portal dedicated to kiwi angst and the upcoming world cup. It’s built for friend and foe alike, to help us all remind the All Blacks what’s at stake in 2011.
Yours in rugby,