Cats versus the Lions
Spare the women and children from the needling, says Alan Dymock.
‘‘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. .
Who can forget the vitriol directed at referee Wayne Barnes when the All Blacks exited the 2007 World Cup in the quarter-finals?