Cheers to our beloved All Blacks!
After 24 years of copping flack from my colleagues and friends alike over the All Blacks’ failure to win rugby union’s “Holy Grail”, despite being the No. 1 team for so long, today I would like to thank the three wise men, Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith for ending the misery for their legion of fans.
Fanzone article written by “MactheBlack", originally published on The Roar Rugby. Submit your own Fanzone article to The Roar for potential publication on AllBlacks.com.
May I say with glass raised: “Cheers to your historic World Cup victory over ‘Les Bleus’ at Eden Park on Sunday.”
And let’s give the French credit for a great display, that just wasn’t enough in the end.
The “three musketeers”, Henry in particular, were given a roasting after the All Blacks bowed out to France in that soul-destroying “forward pass” quarterfinal four years ago.
We questioned why the NZRU would keep Henry in the job, as well as his brothers-in-arms. Obviously, the NZRU’s take might have been that Henry had been there and done that, after turning the fortunes of the Welsh around during his tenure there.
Hansen had been with Northampton and Wales, and, with ex-All Black Smith doing well with a new generation of backs, “four more years” was all it would take indeed before the Cup was won.
Their employers, the NZRU, had more faith in the tried-and-tested trio, than many of the fans did, after another failure at the World Cup in 2007.
Once Henry and co. were back in the breach after that disappointment, there was little time for the All Blacks to ponder over their failure.
Henry had returned to crack the whip as it were. New Zealand marched on into 2008, ready to build towards another crack at World Cup success on home soil in 2011, by retaining the Tri Nations and Bledisloe after sweeping the Northern Hemisphere aside.
In 2009 they lost the Dave Gallaher Cup to France on points difference after losing the first Test at Carisbrook and winning the second Test at Westpac.
Unfortunately, they surrendered the Tri Nations title to South Africa, who were having a golden year after winning the World Cup.
In 2010 Henry’s team were building up momentum to World Cup glory by winning 15 consecutive matches and securing the Tri Nations for the 10th time as well as retaining the Bledisloe Cup.
And in 2011, losing the Tri Nations crown a few months ago to a businesslike Australia 20-15 in Brisbane, after going down to the Springboks in Port Elizabeth, was no big deal.
Henry knew he was building up to bigger things as stalwarts like captain Richie McCaw and Mils Muliana stayed at home for the South African leg.
Henry also built a new team following 2007’s disappointment, with the likes of Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock and Jerome Kaino slotting into key positions.
The coach’s selection of back three Cory Jane, Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui for this year’s tournament, has been nothing short of a masterstroke, after dumping the likes of Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu.
The grooming of Conrad Smith and the incisive and brilliant Ma’a Nonu as centre-pairing over the years, and Sonny Bill Williams as an impact player, has brought even even more stability and impetus to the No 1 team in the world.
This World Cup trophy gentlemen, is not only for the four million people in New Zealand alone, but for the millions of All Black supporters sitting in the rugby stadium of the world.
We thank you Henry, Hansen and Smith; your names will forever be etched in the pantheon of NZ rugby history.
If I can be arrogant enough to say: we entrusted this difficult task to you and you delivered under sometimes extremely difficult circumstances, as a demanding rugby public watched and criticised you and your team’s every move, on your path to Cup glory.
I salute all of you. The NZRU, the support staff, the coaches, the squad, their families and children, who had to avail their loved ones to the cause over a long four years and leave them to the mercy of a demanding rugby public.
Us All Black fans who reside outside ‘the Land of the Long White Cloud’, understand that the NZ public are extremely hard on their team; we too in South Africa used to be like that during the dark days of apartheid, where a victory for the All Blacks against the Boks was a victory for us, the marginalised, over the repressive regime.
And now despite 17 years of democracy and with that repression a thing of the past, most of us are unwilling to turn our backs on our “beloved All Black” for “SA’s beloved Bok”.
But the All Blacks’ 24-year battle to win the World Cup as it strode like a colossus outside of the tournament spectacle, is also an invaluable lesson to all of its fans: To win is not a right. And coaches, players and staff I’m sure know that better than us armchair fans.
The All Blacks’ World Cup 2011 victory will be a big talking point here in my city, Port Elizabeth, at the local All Blacks supporters’ clubs long after the curtain has come down on the tournament.
No doubt there will be many a party organised among All Blacks supporters from Cape Town to Namaqualand to Johannesburg, where the famed All Blacks have a huge support base.
The recent Port Elizabeth Tri Nations Test, where the All Blacks lost to a charged-up Springboks outfit, did not dampen the enthusiasm of the throngs of All Blacks supporters.
The legion of All Black fans were taunted by their Bok counterparts upon leaving the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, with the refrain of “three times, three times … three times!” ringing in their ears.
The Bok fans were of course referring to the fact that their team would claim the World Cup for the third time in New Zealand and be the first team in history to retain the William Webb Ellis.
We were mocked and ridiculed by Bok fans, who can’t seem to understand our support for the All Blacks.
Many a Bok fan, disgusted by the support for the All Blacks by some locals, even showed their antagonism to rival fans in the newspapers. But we kept our cool and composure; we knew that Henry’s team had the talent to boot to win the World Cup. Home-ground advantage would count in our favour too.
We as die-hard All Blacks fans, have celebrated many a nail-biting victory with the All Blacks as well as heartbreaking losses throughout their history; among them, the last-minute penalty by Alan Hewson in 1980 in the flour bomb Test, and that match in Dunedin won by the Boks through a brilliant kick-and-chase solo effort by Ricky Januarie.
Sunday’s victory is also a tribute to the great All Blacks players of yesteryear, who were our heroes in SA, but who could not claim bragging rights of a World Cup victory. Among them greats such as, Bryan Williams, Syd Going, Graham Mourie, Andy Haden, Murray Mexted, Colin Meads, Ian Kirkpatrick, Sean Fitzpatrick, etc.
Of course, thank you to the current crop of players – who have negotiated four years of hell – and all the others who toiled before them in vain to lift the coveted Webb Ellis trophy.
McCaw has no equal as a rugby player in his generation. He is the complete captain, player and professional. Even when immensely talented Wallaby pivot Quade Cooper shoved him in the face, kneed him ( but exonerated) and made some acid remarks following questions about his (QC’s) on-field behaviour some months ago, McCaw – the professional he is – kept his cool.
McCaw did the talking through maintaining his exceptional standards on the field of play. Thanks to the All Blacks, who continue to give us, the fans, many, many hours of pure rugby pleasure, with their attacking flair and nous.
Even Marc Lievremont is quoted as saying: “I support the All Blacks’ style of play, except when they’re playing France.”
I have to mention guys like Kaino, Brad Thorn, Keven Mealamu, Nonu, Smith, Dagg and the ever-dependable, Piri Weepu, whose work ethic epitomises the spirit that is All Black rugby. But it would be very arrogant of me to suggest that our “beloved All Blacks” are now invincible.
May I suggest the team, especially the young guns, are going to find their rivals queueing up to have the beating of the new Champions, post-World Cup. They may be in for interesting times indeed.