As John Key might put it, New Zealanders are showing their ‘socialist streak’ by backing the ‘underdogs’ in each Rugby World Cup match. We have an affinity with the underdog, and this has translated, so far, to an instinctive mixing of sport and politics, whereby in Dunedin on Saturday, New Zealanders appeared to support the Argentina over England by a significant margin. Then in Wellington last night – where there were vast numbers of South Africans in the crowd – it seemed that clearly pretty much everyone else there (mostly Kiwis) were with the Welsh.
There’s more to it than just the ‘underdog’ factor, and some other ideological attitudes appear to kick in. Our reluctance to support the English, for example, is possibly due to the fact that in England the sport of rugby has traditionally been the game of the Establishment, which does not sit well with more egalitarian ethos; not to mention the fact that England is the old colonial master of most rugby playing countries.
Similarly, New Zealand has a long-standing rugby rivalry with South African but there’s also the political reality that rugby was the sport of white South Africa and in this country the Springboks are indelibly associated with apartheid – even thirty years later. In fact in an interesting parallel, there’s still very strong support for the All Blacks by black South Africans – see for example, this article published in South Africa: All Black support grows in EL and Eastern Cape
, which explains that although borne of apartheid, black South African support for New Zealand in rugby is now ingrained.
And of course, New Zealanders also seem to have an approach of supporting ‘whoever is playing against Australia’. Thus amongst most New Zealanders there appears to be a deep-seated aversion to England, South Africa and Australia that leads to wildly enthusiastic support for anyone who comes up against them. Beyond this aversion to these three, there seems to be a further hierarchy of teams that are deemed worthy of support in the RWC. Much of this is based on factors such as our regional big-brother role in the Pacific, the
So below is what might be termed ‘A Politicos guide about who to support in the RWC’, based on very subjective and flippant criteria:
1. All Blacks (nationalism is far from dead)
2. Samoa (our old colony – guilt maybe)
3. Tonga (maybe on their way to number 2?)
4. Fiji (relegated to the bottom of the Pacific Islands because of Military rule)
16. France (ex colonial bully boys - albeit with style)
17. Australia (the new colonial bully boys in the region)
18. USA (the biggest imperialist power)
19. South Africa (they are, after all, the Springboks; and Apartheid still lingers)
20. England (Republican-esque sentiments mixed with egalitarian ethos)
There will be many who will fervently disagree with these tongue-in-cheek rankings. Feel free to leave to leave your own in Comments below.
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