Panic in the streets of Auckland

OK, we can panic now. Our national rugby union team has lost two matches in a row, and more importantly, the Australian national rugby union team has a big fat jandal full of confidence, just before they cross the Pavlova Sea to claim the trophy that’s rightfully theirs and wave it in our tear-stained faces.

Many people are questioning our world cup selection, with two of the world’s best wingers in Gear and Sivivatu left to peruse overseas contracts for the rest of the winter, while taking Kahui and Toeava. appreciates the need for versatility, but wonders whether we over think this stuff, and take utility players with meaningless matches against Canada in mind, rather than the semis or finals, when a top winger would arguably come in handy. We’ll see.

Anyway, the All Blacks looked tentative and nervous on Saturday night, to say the least, except in the second half, when they looked awesome. Australia suddenly look like a proper team and Dingo Deans rediscovered his steely look, while Quade Cooper, fed up with being labelled a poor man’s Carlos Spencer, now seems determined to become a chicken-legged Richard Loe.

All Blacks fans enjoying the pre-tournament anticipation.

The only bright spot of Saturday night’s depressing first half was that we now know the impending Big Fucking Tournament loss will be Zac Guilford’s (or Colin Slade’s) fault – every All Black fan knows Identifying The Scapegoat is a vital part of world cup preparation and that Zac n Colin will be enjoy reunion dinners with Leon McDonald, Wayne Barnes, John Hart and Suzy the waitress for years to come. Whatever happens, I’ll make the point I nicked off one of the Sunday columnists – we are the best team in the world, playing at home, where our track record is outstanding. We just need to hold our nerve. Gilbert Enoka, come on down.

Elsewhere, the greatest substitute centre we’ve ever managed to wave Adidas’ hard-earned cash in front of is dilly-dallying about re-signing with the NZRFU for another eight to nine months. Let’s be honest, Sonny Bill comes with a poor track record when it comes to sticking around and has management that’s shadier than Elvis’. Negotiations to sign him up in the first place involved nightclub toilets and plain paper bags of cash – those are warning signs, team. Getting into bed with Sonny Bill is like getting into bed with a Bull Shark – you might not have done it before, but you’d have a reasonable idea of how it’ll probably turn out. There’s no doubt he’s good, but he’s competing with the world’s best centre for a place in the side, and we look OK without him. A world cup distraction? Only for the sporting media – Sonny Bill himself doesn’t seem too bothered.

Finally, a handy tip – if you’re sick of being annoyed at the upcoming world cup, and want to be annoyed at something else, try following Luke Mcalister on the twitter. As all eyes in the rugby loving world focus on a tiny, naval gazing nation in the South Pacific, wasted-talent Luke floats through his life, going to training and asking Twitter “what’s up?” like a rugby’s version of Desperate Housewive jacked up on Pimms and Valium. Jesus wept. And unfollowed.

Links on Friday (on Thursday)

Some guy takes LSD and tries to recreate Doc Ellis’ rumoured actual-LSD -no-hitter on a video game. Doc Ellis himself explains.

Subbuteo! It’s alive and kicking and is more than life or death to nerds everywhere – watch this guy win the Subbuteo world cup, then go all mental. Stick that up your XBox.

We’re smoking! Go easy to Paris! Wise words from Jens, via the Dropkicks.

Kenny Powers, K-Swiss CEO is farkin’ hilarious and a great example of viral sports-orientated marketing.

Where are you, Briscoes lady?

There was a time in New Zealand when you simply didn’t wear an All Blacks jersey, because you hadn’t played for them. It was one of those charmingly hard-nosed NZ rugby traditions of days gone by, like supporting the team without being ordered to by a sponsor, and turning up to watch matches in stadiums.

But now, three weeks out from the Big Fucking Tournament, we’re bitching about buying stuff. Every New Zealander’s god-given right to load the kids into the car, drive them to the mall, spend the day wandering about aimlessly before slamming a set of All Blacks jerseys on the credit card and eating McDonalds in the car, is in jeopardy. adidas are public enemy numero uno, gouging the nation and receiving the patented John Campbell invasion-of-body-space INTERVIEW TECHNIQUE he reserves for SCUMBAGS like Mark Hotchin.

Still, at least we’re all PR experts now. Where once we talked about line out throws and the make up of the back three, now we sit on our couches discussing sporting executives’¬†crisis communication techniques. On the face of it, adidas have been impressively evil, RAPING hard working Kiwis’ wallets, blocking online jersey orders and cancelling supporter parties left, right and centre. But this ‘investing in grass-roots rugby’ line – it’s true. adidas are NZ rugby’s main backers – the NZRFU is deep in debt, trying to run rugby and hang on to our players in the face of overseas cash. If adidas pulled out of NZ, there would be a real scramble in recessionary times to find a replacement – with respect, do you think Canterbury of NZ could match adidas’ cash?

A group of Kiwi rugby fans queue at the local Rebel Sport

Who knows – maybe this is all a shadowy PR plan to unite the country before the world cup. NZFRU and adidas collude to play villain in the week without an All Blacks tri-nation test, the country rises as one to bond through bitching and moaning, before the Briscoes Lady appears on all channels at 6.23 PM to announce a price drop and refund and we turn our attention to bringing the cup home.The NZRFU gets a united country, while adidas take a brief PR hit, before resuming being a massive fucking multinational that makes shitloads of cash with a number of teams.

So – wear an old jersey, buy a new one and burn it, make an indignant Facebook page. It won’t make any difference and anyway – no-one is holding a stapler to your head and forcing you to buy one. As @hadyngreen points out, you’ll have to wear it underneath a jacket at the game anyway. As you were.

As for the rugby itself (remember that?), it went pretty bloody well, with Quade Cooper paying a one man tribute to Carlos Spencer’s patented ‘getting found out under pressure’ moves at Carlos’ home ground. The main talking point seemed to be queueing for trains. It’s only right of course, that we can all walk straight out of major sporting events into an empty train, maintained at the perfect temperature, without waiting in a queue, that drops us off to our place of residence, via a quick trip to the drive through. Ahem. Maybe our overseas visitors, who are used to waiting in queues for rugby, football and public transport can provide some perspective when they get here. It went very smoothly, from what I can see – let’s get on with it.

Bogans: Eden Park ready for the world cup

NEWSDESK: Auckland bogans today gave Eden Park’s world cup dress rehearsal their seal of approval. West Auckland man Daryl Flannelette reported a thoroughly enjoyable experience at the All Blacks vs Wallabies match from what he can remember, telling reporters “It’s by the waterfront eh? No? It’s still good. Bro, I was pretty wasted.”

West Auckland man Carl ‘Metal’ Saxon praised event security’s diligence, who found and confiscated his bourbon-injected watermelon, but missed the six ‘Turbo Tequila’ shots he’d concealed in a bodily cavity (“Sucked in!” said Saxon). The east and west stands’ temporary seating gave the park a special feeling, which Saxon enhanced with several ‘Kronic’ cigarettes he was able to enjoy without detection. Food and drink at the ground was labelled ‘adequate’ from a bogan perspective, but both bogans we spoke to admitted they were recklessly inebriated before entering the ground, and believe eating is cheating when drinking alcohol.

The only down point was one Mount Eden resident charging fans $25 to urinate on his driveway pre-match. “I’ve been pissing on that guy’s driveway for free for years,” said Flannelette. “Twenty five bucks! I’ll be back mid-week to get my money’s worth.”

Bogans did not share media concern over Auckland’s public transport. “Mate, I was worried all those people queuing for trains would wreck my buzz, but I was able to hotwire a car in Cricket Ave in minutes, and was inside Showgirls half an hour after the final whistle,” said Flannelette. Saxon eliminated the transport issue altogether by spending the night at the ground, reporting the concrete in the west stand concourse was “smooth” and “surprisingly warm”.

Retiring from test matches

The All Blacks play tests, but they don’t play tests. We used to play whole series (Phillips, Iveco) of not-tests against meaningless nations like Wales or Scotland, who’d left all their best players at home anyway, to warm up for the Tri Nations. This year’s test against Fiji wasn’t a test because it was only Fiji, which made it a training run. The test against ancient foes South Africa wasn’t a test because all their best players were at home doing fark knows what. So, the first *real* test of the season won’t happen until¬† *this* Saturday night against the Aussies. Anyway, all these tests mean nothing because the real test is going to come in the Big Fucking Tournament. Even then, it only really gets going in the quarters, if that. Rugby, eh?

So the would-be test against South Africa was an interesting watch. It seems the tactic of having 18 players vying for the back three is a winner. Disgruntled tweeter Cory Jane suddenly looked like a test player again and Zac Guildford (who has a weird shaped body, according to the females I watched the match with) played bloody well, as did Mils. We’re heading for a selection headache the likes of which Steve Hanson hasn’t seen since the day after Old Boys ‘Vicars and Prostitutes’ themed end of year prizegiving bash in ’85. In the forwards, Andrew Hore played like the Bok pack was made up of seven Mark Hammetts and a fur seal, while the pack as a whole went like a high performance arse kicking machine. I’d characterise the All Blacks performance as ‘fucking impressive’ on the impressive-ometer, especially as we’re still arguably a few guys short of the best XV. The Haka stats from this test are worth a look, as always.

And of course, much of the talk was about the new Adidas jersey. I don’t like it. It’s funny looking. I like the idea of a retro-themed kit (some of my favourite teams have had retro kits), but this is neither one thing or the other, with a collar a mid 90s premiership team would be ashamed of. The super-tight-tube-whatever construction means it’s hard to actually put the thing on, with each All Black requiring three or four other All Blacks’ assistance just to get dressed. There’s a possibility of delayed kick offs due to our national team’s inability to clothe themselves. The challenge of being an All Black is no longer about being worthy of the jersey, it’s whether you’re actually able to put it on.

The other jersey-gate this week was England’s black away jersey, in the biggest attention-seeking move since every single time Clive Woodward opened his mouth. With only nine rugby playing nations, away kits aren’t the money spinners they are in football. Indeed, the sole purpose of international rugby jerseys now seems to be annoying the All Blacks – see France’s deeper shade of blue at the 2007 world cup. Don’t fall for it, New Zealand. Ignore the English black jersey and let’s hope we get to play them in the final, ‘cos black jersey or not, they’re a bit shit at rugby.