All Blacks’ fans are as in­suf­fer­able as those who love United

CityPress - - Sport - Sports@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa

Is it just me or have All Blacks sup­port­ers over­taken their Manch­ester United coun­ter­parts as the most ob­nox­ious fans roam­ing the earth? My re­sent­ment of the Men In Black’s sup­port­ers – thanks to a dis­mis­sive com­ment here about the op­po­si­tion, a smug re­mark there about yet an­other his­toric vic­tory – has been grow­ing over the past few years, which we should sim­ply call the Steve Hansen years.

But be­cause I’m mind­ful that the kids are for­ever im­plor­ing us to “hate the game, not the player”, I’ve stead­fastly checked my­self from hat­ing as Hansen’s side went un­beaten in 2013, es­tab­lish­ing a world record 18-match win­ning streak en route to los­ing just five games and draw­ing twice in 71 games since 2012.

To gain a sense of how good the Blacks have been un­der Hansen, you have to con­sider that not only had he not lost more than one game to an­other coach go­ing into yes­ter­day’s de­cider against the Bri­tish and Irish Li­ons, he had not lost a se­ries.

Yet when the out­pour­ing of schaden­freude hit so­cial me­dia af­ter the All Blacks lost the sec­ond test to the Bri­tish and Irish Li­ons last weekend, it be­came clear that I wasn’t the only one who was get­ting an­noyed by their fans.

Be­fore this is read as some rant against the All Blacks, I need to make it clear that I love them as much as the next man. When you watch New Zealand play, it’s a bit like watch­ing Brazil at soc­cer or Roger Federer in ten­nis – it’s a con­stant high­lights pack­age of how the game should be played.

So there is lit­tle not to love about the All Blacks. This is from the in­spired way they play their rugby, their sim­ple but fetch­ing jer­sey de­sign (Spring­bok green and gold does lit­tle for any­one’s fash­ion sense) to how hum­ble and en­gag­ing I’ve found their play­ers – some of them leg­ends such as Richie Mc­Caw and Dan Carter – as in­ter­view subjects.

That’s why even a gnarled old Bok sup­porter like me can be on a nick­name ba­sis – Ted for Gra­ham Henry, Shag for Hansen, Beaudy for Beau­den Bar­rett and The Bus for Julian Savea – with the key fig­ures in their teams when­ever they come up as a topic for dis­cus­sion.

(Well, ei­ther that or I have too many All Black nut­ters for friends.)

In a way, this is prob­a­bly why I’m rail­ing against the celebrity cul­ture sup­port­ing the All Blacks. Some time ago, it was a way of life be­cause they were a snap­shot of ev­ery­thing good about a rugby union, but now some gloat­ing prats have come into the pic­ture with each record they’ve bro­ken.

You see it on the New Zealand rugby show The Breakdown when Jeff Wil­son and Jim Kayes wrack their brains on screen for a few sec­onds and come to the con­clu­sion that no­body would beat the All Blacks’ fifth stringers.

Then you see it on so­cial me­dia and at pubs, when their bas­tard fans ver­bally pat you on the head pa­tro­n­is­ingly for having the temer­ity to think your team (in this case the Boks) may beat their all­con­quer­ing team in about 10 years’ time.

The fact that they’re ac­tu­ally right not only makes it worse, but it also tells you – to para­phrase “Steamin” Wil­lie Bea­men from Any Given Sun­day – that it would ap­pear that the All Blacks’ success has gone to their sup­port­ers’ heads.

We keep get­ting told that the All Blacks have a “no dick­heads” rule, where se­nior play­ers are ex­pected to sweep the chang­ing rooms to keep all their play­ers grounded. By the looks of it, the mes­sage of hu­mil­ity has failed to fil­ter down to their brag­gart fans.

I must ad­mit I liked the All Blacks sup­port­ers bet­ter when they fell apart at the prospect of a World Cup knock­out game, but now that the team has dis­cov­ered the cure to chok­ing, they’ve sim­ply be­come in­suf­fer­able.

To the All Blacks’ new-money fans, we know how great your team is: only los­ing by three points af­ter play­ing with 14 men for 50 min­utes against the Li­ons last weekend drops a few broad hints to the fact.

But can you stop force-feed­ing us the mes­sage at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity?


OVER THE TOP Foot­ball lovers came out in num­bers to sup­port their teams, Kaizer Chiefs and Manch­ester United, dur­ing the 2008 Vo­da­com Chal­lenge fi­nal at Lof­tus Versveld

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