The Trials, Tribulations, and Terrors Of Watching New Zealand Rugby

Casey MichelCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2008

They are the stuff borne of nightmares.

They are more terrifying than Donald Trump’s hair, Mike Tyson’s mind, and season three of Are You Afraid of the Dark?"

They are the New Zealand All Blacks, and they’re coming for you.

Well, okay, maybe not you specifically, since you don’t play on a national rugby team. But if, in another life, you find yourself as a member of the Australia Wallabies or the South Africa Springboks, then you’ll be more screwed than that goat in Jurassic Park.

And how do I know that the All Blacks are the embodiment of Bane, Charles Manson, and Hades, or that their parents are the Hulk and a harem of banshees? Because even though I’m (purportedly) a rugby-loathin’ “Amurrican,” the All Blacks’ moniker rang a familiar refrain in my mind.

Still, this rampage squad was mostly rumor and hearsay before I arrived Down Under. Tales of demon-possessed New Zealanders and their haka, some dance routine or something, were all I knew of these terrors from the South Pacific.

So it was without hesitation that I bought a Wallabies jacket in August — not only was it comfortable, but hey, I got it on sale, which my Mom would be proud to hear.

And now, two months later, I rue that day, trembling in fear that the All Blacks will find me out.


Because I finally saw what they could do to anyone who stood in their way.

Last month, the Wallabies, All Blacks and Springboks were all competing for the Tri Nations Cup, an annual competition for a big shiny trophy. Set outside the typical international competition, the tournament began in 1996, although the contests between Australia and the sheep-shaggers, er, New Zealand — oh man, I hope they don’t read this column — started in 1903. Ever since, the rivalries between the three nations have grown quicker than John McCain’s nose, and as any rugby player can attest, so have the friendships.

But friendliness and camaraderie come after the tournament, when the on-field blood, sweat, and tears — the latter often coming from the Wallabies and the Springboks — dissipate and the beer flows through the night. It’s the midst of the competition, when the hearts are pumping and the eyes are focused, that won’t get Barney singing anytime soon.

If you check Wikipedia, you’ll see that the All Blacks had won eight of the previous twelve Tri Nations Cups (and if you blur your eyes, Australia’s flag starts to look like New Zealand’s, which gives the Kiwis a couple more wins). So it should have come as little surprise that the All Blacks came into 2008 as odds-on favorites yet again.

With South Africa’s hopes quickly going the way of the Tasmanian Tiger, Australia ended up hosting New Zealand in last month’s final. Attempting not to singe my stir fry, I flipped the television on just as the players began their pre-game jog. I watched the behemoths striding and secretly wondered if my Pilates would ever get me to look like that. (Nope.)

And then, as I took my first bite of burned noodles, the crowd got silent. Across from the checkered All Blacks, the Wallabies lined up, not dissimilar to an old-school firing range. And something strange, something eerie, something blood-curdling began.

The haka.

It’s as if the All Blacks were held by Lucifer’s highly-choreographed minions, bulging their eyes, sharpening their teeth, and turning these He-Men into terrors of the night.

As I sat in a dread-driven stupor, I found my extremities going cold and my organs beginning to shut down. How did the indigenous people explain the terror of European guns? How could the Japanese express their horror of Godzilla? How will you tell your kids about Paris Hilton?

There are places where English comes up short. Embarrassingly, as I’m an English major, this was one such instance.

Needless to say, the Wallabies rolled over quicker than a 1998 Ford Explorer. With tries falling, scrums writhing, and muscles that seemed ready to burst, New Zealand ran roughshod over the poor Australian blokes, easily capturing the Tri Nations Cup for the ninth time in 13 years.

Ever since I witnessed this rugby drubbing, away from the safety of a loving family or supportive newspaper staff, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that the All Blacks are out there, roaming, sacking, and pillaging the Australian landscape, looking for other victims to satiate their appetite for destruction.

And there’s nothing I, nor anyone else, can do about it.

So, who wants my Wallabies jacket?