Having moved to Auckland recently, it’s allowed me to get to Eden Park a few times to Test, Super and ITM Cup rugby. Whilst it’s been a decade since I got to a game in the northern hemisphere there were a few things that struck me as being very different.
I think a kiwi friend of mine put it very well when he said that whilst New Zealanders do follow rugby, they tend to watch it at home on TV rather than going to the games themselves. I guess that is why I managed to get a Bledisloe Cup ticket a week before the game! Imagine trying to get a ticket for a 6 nations game at Twickenham a week before the game, it’s just impossible.
Up north there is great store put in respecting the kicker, which mens being quiet as the kicker takes a kick at goal. Well at least in Britain and Ireland as I hear that over in France they can make some noise. At the recent ITM Cup game I went to there was a chant to distract the opposition kicker. What really surprised me though was that they also had a chant to support their own kicker whilst he took his the kick!
One of the things that especially the Welsh but also the other northern hemisphere countries take great pride in is their singing. But down under there is no equivalent to the sound of Bread of Heaven in the Millenum Stadium or Swing Low Sweet Chariot at Twickenham or Flower of Scotland round Murrayfield or Fields of Athenry in Lansdowne Road. In fact when you hear the chant of All Blacks it’s been started by them putting the words up on the big screen, not something that is started by the crowd.
Perhaps the no singing in general play is something to do with where I’m watching. Auckland is the big smoke and so doesn’t get the same tribalism that some of the other teams have. It was good seeing the Chiefs supporters in their stripes, many in home-made outfits such as overalls painted in the teams colours and they brought along their cowbells. At the Auckland v Northland game I deliberately sat near a crowd of blue wigged Northland supporters. If you’re going to dress up there is a fair chance that you’re going to make some noise. I really want to go and visit The Bone Yard, not so much to see the Manawatu Turbos but to have some fun with the bucket heads, I really hope reports of their demise are not true.
Being an Exeter Chiefs fan, I’m a great believer in getting dressed up for the rugby, if you’re not wearing a full headdress of feathers then what’s the point in turning up? In fact I think Exeter should have a drum band section but I digress. So yes, I understand that my views will not be universally agreed with. But I want to know who’s playing, not just by the colour of the supporters jerseys, but also the extra paraphernalia.