I absolutely love it. I think its bloody marvellous.
New Zealand have done it again. Super Rugby done right. I wouldn’t have wished this situation on anyone or anything. Out of necessity, from a deep-down desire, the game was gifted back to a population needing a lift and a reward for getting it right. Rugby returned more meaningful than ever before. And it meant I was up early, like I was when I was a kid, to watch rugby from the other side of the world. And I loved it.
Sometimes there are too many teams. Its tough to invent rivalry. Its hard to make it mean ‘something’. We love a local derby, playing against mates or family, traditions and history. Seeing Beaudy in Blue playing against the Canes was brilliant. Watching DC with the H2O and the kicking tee. Gats in charge of the Chiefs and his boy kicking the winner. The Super 15, or however many it got to in the end, had too many dead rubbers. But this? This is gold, every game, every time. I blame TV and Rugby Unions I think, they thought we wanted more. They thought we wanted it every night. What I want, want I really really want, is for it to be meaningful. To fall in love with the anticipation, the moment, not wanting it to end and then to be left wanting more. To not know who is gonna win. To feel sad when the whistle goes. That was what this brought. Every game mattered and I’m not even a Kiwi.
I remember when it took off in the 90s, with baggy shirts, Cullen and Carlos, Jonah and Zinny… It was rugby, but not really as I knew it. And I loved it. Now, its figure hugging, sexy and played by the kids of those 90s heroes! I’ve got old, but I still love it. I loved Carlos the most.
Super Rugby was struggling to find crowds because it lost its identity, it got complicated. It wasn’t us; it was them. Then, because it was taken away, people realised how much they missed it and couldn’t wait to get back. The games were played at sensible times for spectators rather than TV audiences on the other side of the globe. Rocking up to Eden Park on a warm Sunday afternoon must have felt like arriving in Heaven. I would have given a lot to be back in the Te Rapa Tavern before heading to Rugby Park to watch the Chiefs. I watched from afar and wished it was me.
The players, coaches, clubs (franchises) and Rugby Union reconnected with the communities. They realised they weren’t just playing to win, but to entertain and to reward everyone who shared the struggles and isolation. Like Shankly telling his Liverpool players to give maximum effort and to entertain those who paid their pennies to watch. It was full blooded, every game meant something, and players knew that with every tackle and pass and kick they were being watched. They wanted to perform for their fans and the country, but also those interested spectators picking a squad to play in Black. Heroes rose. New names showed themselves worthy. And some old boys hung around and got another go before heading to the Land of the Rising Sun. It was a tasty cocktail served at sunrise!
The joy of a competition like that is that it captured the imagination at a time we needed to dream. It was right there in front of you, not flying to different continents for a non-event, out of sight. Where the atmosphere was false. This was familiar, and sometimes familiar is nice. Sometimes what you want is what you know. The players knew they were the only show in town, they had been restricted like everyone else and getting back onto a green carpet of grass to chase an egg must have been close to the best feeling ever. It was short and joyful and left everyone hungry for more.
Then they go and bring back a classic! North v South. It is a layer sometimes I think is missed. It’s a chance to shine, to play in a select team without being a ‘Test’. No points or trophy just pride and will to win because… it meant something. Sometimes players get a chance to show they can make the leap, but without that steppingstone, there might always have been a question mark or a doubt. This is a chance. That’s all, but at least it’s a chance. A sweet mixture of the All Blacks and the Barbarians! Imagine being given that honour?! Having that opportunity?! It must have felt like Christmas morning with a full blanket of fresh snow and stocking full of everything you asked for with bacon sandwiches for breakfast.
Thank you, New Zealand. Please stay classy and remember who you are, cos I love you for it and I wish I was there. I think you really are Super.
The Canes, the Blues, the Chiefs, the Highlanders and the Saders all know…
Happiness is Egg Shaped