The Fear….

…and more on the rugger.

An English bloke I met trekking in Nepal, in 1998-99, had been in the English schoolboy rugby team and had played against our lads.
He’d been coached by Terry Cobner, pack leader for the 1977 Lions – he may have been vice captain, I’m not sure.
Anyway, Cobner coached them on the psychology of New Zealand rugby: we play not out of joy of winning, he rekkined, but out of a fear amounting to terror of losing.

Terry Cobner, wiliness personified, during the 1977 series

I had to point out that, at the time, the  All Blacks seemed to have regrettably overcome this fear – 1998 was one of the worst seasons ever, something Liam Hehir indirectly reminded me of on the Twitter this morning.

Perhaps it is also why New Zealand is treating last night’s draw as a loss, while the Brits are treating it as a win.

Fifteen All? Perhaps it was deserved. Would have been happier if it had been deserved bacause of some iffy play by the ABs in the first half, and not some even iffier decidions by the reff in the final quarter.

Third Test against the Lions…40 years ago

This was Graham Mourie’s first test. Huge build-up. The ABs had lost the previous test and only had an iffy win in the first test. Coming the year against a lost series in South Africa, there was a sense of crisis.

The selectors went berko after the second test loss, making six changes and – most shockingly of all – dropping veteran halfback Sid Going.

It was an extremely wet winter, and Carisbrook had been rained on all week. From memory, the rugby union hired a couple of helicopters to fly up and down the ground for hours before the test, trying to dry out the ground with the downdraft from the rotor blades.

This may be a bit of a legend. I don’t know.

The dropping of Going at halfback was seen as a signal the All Blacks would run the ball through the backline rather than having Sid Going have a go on his own and fold it back into the forwards.

Anyway, they showed they would do that, right in the opening minute. Bruce Robertson – Counties’ only player in the side, something I kind of noted, as a Waiuku lad – had a fantastic day.

After a couple of years without a decent goalkicker – Joe Karam, who has since gone on to fame in other areas, had been a dead-eye dick with the boot for years but in 1975 he went to league – the new boy at fullback, Bevan Wilson, was a real find.

And of course it was Kirkpatrick’s 50th try.

Anyway, it was a really great game. Here’s the highlights.

And here’s hoping to a decent win tonight.

Rugby, New Zealand, and a civilised sense of perspective

A bunch of blokes tossing around a ball in an impromptu game of touch; a few people resting on the edges of Chaffers Park, reading and picnicking, while behind a jazz band played in the produce market. Over towards Te Papa, the fruit & veggie market was in full swing, albeit a bit quieter than it is usually at this point on a Sunday.

A long weekend, with some folChaffers Civiisationk away; plus a few more regulars grabbing some extra zeds after getting up early to watch the All Black vs. Springbok semi, all played their part, I suspect.

The general atmosphere is one of a chilled out, civilised and relaxed Kiwi Sunday.

I’d like to think the scene this morning – and, more importantly, the general mood around it – would have been the same if the ABs had lost.

Perspective is all.

Edge of the seat stuff while the game is on – and today’s game was a traditional All Black-South Africa match in that it was incredibly intense, quite scraggly in bits, and not all that pretty at times.

Oh, and we’re bitching about the reffing.

The more the ruck ball rules changes, the more things stay the same.

The French should come up with a saying about that, though perhaps it should be rendered partly in Afrikaan & partly in Welsh.

New Zealand is into the final, against the Pumas or – more likely – the Wallabies – but I hope that whatever the result next weekend, we’ll take it in our stride.

British author Kingsley Amis used to rekkin a bad book review might ruin hs breakfast but he wouldn’t allow it to ruin his lunch.

It’s a good rule which I think we should apply to All Black losses – even if I don’t quite believe Amis took his own advice (oh, and one of the reasons he might not have allowed it to upset his midday meal was his lunch was generally of the alcoholic variety).

But it’s the principle of the thing.

Win or lose next week, New Zealand will still be the relaxed, civilised country we can, at our best, be.





Ferry from Massey Memorial

Rugby World Cup: NZL 62, FRA 13 

So , things went reasonably well in the quarter final against France after all. 

But we would not be New Zild if we were not already fretting about the semi final* against the ‘Boks next weekend. 

I once met an English bloke who had played for the Poms’ schoolboy rugby team against their NZ counterparts. The English schoolboys were coached by a former Lion and Welsh rugby forward.

Giving the lads the benefit of his experience, he instructed them New Zealand teams are not motivated by a desire to win.

They are driven, overwelmingly, by a fear of losing. 

This conversation took place in early 1999. Reviewing the ABs results of the previous season , I suggested it was a fear which seemed to have been been, regrettably, overcome. 

Joking aside: the focus now will be on the Ancient Enemy: the Springboks. Who, of course, appear to have got over any fear they mght have of losing by spectacularly coming a gutser against Japan. 

Rugby World Cups are meant to operate like this. The idea is they will raise the standard of less-well-performing rugby nations – espeically, it has to be said, those with the money to hire expertise from the more well performing rugby nations. 

We can see that, too, in the  strong likelihood Argentina will be in the other semi-final. 

Anyway, this morning’s result is not too foul. I rekkin we can feel a bit chuffed about it, without, of course, going berserk or anything.   
*There are people on the Twitter joking about the way we call semi finals ‘semis’ as though it is some rude thing. It probably is, but I’m not going to look it up. 

For the English Rugby Team…. #RWC2015


I think there’s only one appropriate song for the English Rugby team after the 33-13 loss to the Aussies and its this.

So far as I know its the only rock song to mention rugby** specifically, and the lines

 Back in the scrum

On a wet afternoon

Down in the mud

Dreaming of flowers in June…

…seem very right for today.

From the Kinks, mid-1960s. A fairly obscure, if rather lovely, album track. Apparently Ray Davies wrote this the same time he wrote the hit ‘Sunny Afternoon’ – after a complete mental crack up when he’d shoved his money in his sock, run down Denmark Street in London  and tried to assault his manager, which strikes me as a marvellously Goon-ish way to behave.


**UPDATE: Keir Leslie has pointed out to me, on Twitter, there’s also the Jam’s ‘Eton Rifles’. Can’t believe I’d forgotten that one – much more my era than this one, and besides, I’ve only recently bought the remastered ‘Setting Sons’.

In moody rucks…

In honour of tonight’s    last weekend’s test. Programmed blogger to automatically put it up on Saturday: for some reason it didn’t take.

Wallace Stevens, modernist poet.  Excerpt from  The Comedian as the Letter C:

How greatly had he grown in his demesne, This auditor of insects!
He that saw 
The stride of vanishing autumn in a park 
By way of decorous melancholy; he 
That wrote his couplet yearly to the spring, 
As dissertation of profound delight,
 Stopping, on voyage, in a land of snakes, 
Found his vicissitudes had much enlarged 
His apprehension, made him intricate 
In moody rucks, and difficult and strange 
In all desires, his destitution’s mark. 
He was in this as other freemen are, 
Sonorous nutshells rattling inwardly. 

 What better description of a ref’s whistle than ‘sonorous nutshells rattling inwardly’??

The 1981 Tour: The Protests, the Rage, the Moustaches

“That’s a bit too bloody corny,” I thought last night, watching the two lovers across the 1981 Tour divide embrace in Onslow Road, next to a group of protesters overturning a Holden Kingswood.
The scene – the climax of Rage, a drama about the ’81 protests – was reaching a bit too hard for some sort of symbolic reconciliation and redemption.
He, a protest leader from conservative provincial New Zealand who had been radicalised at University:  she a Maori cop who had been working undercover with the protest movement and had, despite herself, fallen in love.
Staging their first honest kiss next to that up-ended Kingswood – which was one of the most memorable photo-images from that bitterly divided year – seemed a bit too cute.
But despite my natural cynicism, I found myself choking up.
There is what might look like a similarly stagy bid for a feel good ending, with Julius Nuyere, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM)  later that year, saying how the New Zealand protests gave black Africans hope.
The speech looks a bit contrived, but the co-writer of the programme, journalist Tom Scott, was at that CHOGM meeting and, at the time, reported Nuyere saying pretty much what he says in the film.
‘Rage’ is very well done.  There’s a couple of liberties taken  – I don’t think the Clean’s ‘Boodle Boodle Boodle’ came out until after the tour, for example  – but these are minor.
The small touches are neatly done and they give the drama depth.  It is all too easy, when writing history of large events like this, to turn every dialogue into a speech and to paint all the action in large brush strokes.
This is mostly avoided.  The characters are real, not sloganeering archetypes.
One small example: Ginette McDonald, who has only a minor role as a middle aged, middle class, woman caught up in the protests. 
The mark of a great actor is being able to capture a character with a few lines and a look, and McDonald is a great actor.  Here, she conveys not only a character but a whole sub-stratum of New Zealand who were opposed to the Tour, not because of radicalism or any great bolshiness, but due to a  slightly bewildered but determined decency.
If you missed ‘Rage’ last night, get hold of it.  Its very very good.

The Bledisloe

Twenty years ago, the All Blacks could field players with half a leg missing and still beat the Wallabies.

Would that were still the case. Here’s hoping tomorrow night is a goodie. Pity its not in Dunedin. I don’t buy this “Eden Park jinx” on the Wallabies. They’re Aussies, they don’t like the cold. Put ’em on an Otago pitch with a southerly roaring, that’ll learn ’em.

Long Weekend

Took the wee musician and budding tramper for a bush walk.

She did well – two hours up to the Korokoro Dam and back. Not a word of complaint. Pretty good for a five year old.

Driving back through town, oh dear, the sevens fever has hit town.

A bunch of guys dressed as Fred Dagg with their girlfriends dressed as sheep. Not a bad take on a very old joke, I suppose.

Around the corner, another bunch of guys dressed as Fred Dagg. No girlfriends with this bunch, although one of them had an inflatable sheep attached to his trousers.

A few years back I met a woman at a party who had just come back from her OE in the UK. ‘I thought I’d do something different, so I went to London and worked in a pub’ was how she rather drolly put it.

First party she went to, a bunch of young NZ blokes got out an inflatable sheep. Oh yeah, she thought, reasonably amusing.

Second party, another bunch of young Kiwi blokes, another inflatable sheep.

Next party, yet another group of young Kiwi males, and yet another inflatable sheep.

This is not doing much for our international reputation, she reckoned.

Oh, and the sevens…a couple of young women dressed like the Topp Twins about 25 years ago. At least I think that is what they were trying to do.

A group of other young women in frocks of bright green, with yellow spots. Sort of like Dorothy the Dinosaur but with better legs.

Today – took the wee one to the Kilbirnie pool. its a long weekend in summer, and of course the management of the Kilbirnie Pool are ready for this: the kiddies pools are closed for maintenance.

It’s a great facility, the Kilbirnie pool. But a very badly managed one.