Cats ver­sus the Lions

Spare the women and chil­dren from the needling, says Alan Dymock.

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

‘‘We’re not as bad as the South Africans are we?’’ It was a ques­tion over a pint by former All Black and old friend Ja­son Hewett, an Auck­land res­i­dent who had asked me what I have made of rugby fans in New Zealand while fol­low­ing the Lions squad. I’ve been in a lot of booz­ers on this trip – putting in the hard yards so you don’t have to – and from the beer-soaked pool ta­bles of Hamil­ton to the water­front of Whangarei, the dis­cus­sions have been knowl­edge­able and lively and more of­ten than not, good whole­some fun. The pas­sion and hos­pi­tal­ity have been brilliant. How­ever, there is al­ways a lit­tle bit of edge when­ever the All Blacks come up. The re­ac­tive ques­tion from Ja­son came when I sug­gested that Ki­wis were bet­ter losers than they are win­ners – but not by much. You feel for the ref­eree when­ever New Zealand lose, be­cause in­vari­ably the pub­lic will de­cide the whistler is a cheat, as it is sim­ply im­pos­si­ble to fathom an All Blacks loss. But you feel for some of the vis­it­ing fans when the All Blacks win, be­cause they will be raw from hav­ing their faces rubbed in it so hard. How­ever much I have my tongue in my cheek here, there is a pang of truth to this.

For the wind-up artists out there, this is a fan­tas­tic sit­u­a­tion be­cause you can get peo­ple livid, no mat­ter which way you take the con­ver­sa­tion.

I re­mem­ber be­ing at a press event in Dunedin three years ago, on the eve of a test be­tween the All Blacks and Eng­land – a win-win for a Scots­man, any­way – and the na­tives, in their di­vine wis­dom, set us up at the Speight’s brew­ery with an elas­tic tab.

There were speeches (if some­one lifts a toi­let lid here, there will be a speech). You feel for the ref­eree when­ever New Zealand lose, be­cause in­vari­ably the pub­lic will de­cide the whistler is a cheat, as it is sim­ply im­pos­si­ble to fathom an All Blacks loss.

The English rep­re­sen­ta­tive was ful­some with his praise of the hosts, right up un­til his clos­ing line, when he said with a glint in his eye: ‘‘But when will you get an open­side that doesn’t cheat?’’

He sat and waited. You could have paraglided over the Pa­cific on wings as wide as his grin but all of his col­leagues flinched, aware of what was com­ing.

The re­ply from one of Dunedin’s finest was vol­canic. It was an easy win on a tour where test wins went miss­ing for the tourists.

The boo­ing of kick­ers I can live with. You pay your hard-earned dosh to cheer and boo what­ever you want.

And I know the Lions fans are easy tar­gets as they wear the same red kit ev­ery sin­gle damn day (when does it ever get washed?).

But please, sup­port re­spon­si­bly around women, kids, and men of a cer­tain age. The rest of us are fair game, I reckon. Alan Dymock is an award­win­ning rugby writer in the UK and the fea­tures ed­i­tor for magazine. Ki­wis are more in­ter­ested in the Amer­ica’s Cup than the Lions, judg­ing by their in­ter­net search his­to­ries.

Over 24 hours from Fri­day af­ter­noon, the yachting con­test gen­er­ated far more Google searches across New Zealand than the much-awaited rugby tour.

Searches for ‘‘Or­a­cle protest’’ surged 550 per cent amid fears the US team would lodge an of­fi­cial com­plaint about Team New Zealand’s super-fast yacht. Mean­while, helms­man Peter Burl­ing at­tracted more hits than All Blacks cap­tain Kieran Read over the past week, ac­cord­ing to Google Trends.

But the battle be­tween rugby and yachting varies from re­gion to re­gion. In­ter­est in the Amer­ica’s Cup is strong­est in North­land and Tasman, while Welling­ton and Marl­bor­ough are keener on the rugby.

Yachting has not al­ways been more pop­u­lar than the Lions since the Amer­ica’s Cup be­gan on June 17.

The Lions tour was briefly more pop­u­lar among Google searches on June 20, the day the Lions beat the Chiefs 34-6.

But the Google searches re­veal that al­though New Zealan­ders might be fas­ci­nated by the re­gatta, they don’t know where it is be­ing held.

Google has seen Kiwi searches for ‘‘Where is Ber­muda?’’ surge in the past week, af­ter barely a sin­gle one in five years.

Team New Zealand take a com­mand­ing lead into the next round of racing against Or­a­cle Team USA this morn­ing. Mean­while, the Lions play three more games, in­clud­ing two tests. .

Char­lie Gates

JOHN SELKIRK

Who can for­get the vit­riol di­rected at ref­eree Wayne Barnes when the All Blacks ex­ited the 2007 World Cup in the quar­ter-fi­nals?

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