Rugby Championship

From novice to super-fan: Why I back the All Blacks

Janine Van der Post (File)
Janine Van der Post (File)

Rugby used to be a foreign term, a sport I had absolutely no interest in and knew absolutely nothing about up until four years ago.

The only thing I knew about the sport was the shape of the ball - and that I never gave it any time of day!

Then I met my husband, Clavern.

He plays club rugby - as a No 8 - to keep fit and for the love of the game. And, he’s one of the biggest All Blacks supporters I know.

Weekends these days, when I’m not on Formula One duty, I am pitch-side, cheering and supporting my husband along with our daughter.

So how does someone who didn't know the difference between a flyhalf and a loosehead suddenly become an All Blacks lover?

Just as when my husband met me and had to accept he was going to marry a woman whose life revolved around cars, I too headed into a matrimony of rugby.

This man eats, sleeps and breathes rugby. From club rugby to Super Rugby - and even international leagues - we watch it all the time. 

And because he enjoys the sport so much, the love of the game naturally spills over. And I thought that if I perhaps understood the game, I would appreciate it as much as he does.

The same applied for him as he probably never watched an entire Formula One race before he met me, and now he cheers for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel while I back Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. He even helps me out on race days adding commentary while I type away.

Am I proudly South African? Of course I am, but when it comes to rugby I wave a black flag. Call me what you will, no shits are given.

He started explaining what a penalty was and what “collapsing the scrum” meant. How the All Blacks started supporting local rugby in less-fortunate communities here in South Africa years ago. He pointed out how humble the players are; their intense level of skill and commitment to the game and each other, not only as a team, but a brotherhood.

Most importantly, he taught me about the haka.

How it’s not just an ancestral Maori war cry to intimidate opponents, but also a call to the god of war for strength and to help them win the battle. But more significantly, the haka - of which there are different versions (that’s a tale for another day) - has become a symbol of unity and strength for the community to come together. Hence the haka is not only seen on game days, but it is also performed at weddings and funerals and other important gatherings.

He’s also told me about the legendary Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. 

Thank goodness I had already decided on my daughter’s name because she would have been running around answering to the name of either Richie or Dan right now!

Perhaps Clavern romanticised the All Blacks, but he always gives credit where it’s due to the Springboks.

He often complains - and wonders - why guys like Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Ruan Combrinck or ‘Kwagga’ Smith don't get selected for the national team.

Watching a Test between the Springboks and anyone else just isn’t half as exciting watching the All Blacks.

If for any reason he has to leave the couch during a big match, I know his heart skips a beat when I call from the living room saying "Rieko Ioane just scored another try" or there was a “knock-on”.

His woman knows her rugby now!

My absolute favourite is the way his eyes twinkle when I can name most of the players in the starting XV. Or hearing the pride in his voice when he brags to his mates how I know the New Zealand team players by name.

I have my own favourite players too, namely Brodie Retallick, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Malakai Fekitoa, the Barrett brothers - and not forgetting the "double trouble" of the Savea boys.

Even our 2-year-old toddler understands her dad plays rugby and that Dora the Explora needs to take a back seat when the Kiwis are about to play. She also helps cheer pitch-side yelling “Go daddy, run! Score!”.

The Springboks played a damn good Test a fortnight ago at Newlands, and the match was a true advertisement for rugby. If they could only play like that every Test they play ... the kind that leaves All Blacks fans grasping for hope, and knocking their confidence, that would be lekker.

But, I’ll always carry the flag of the All Blacks when it comes to the game that is rugby.

Janine Van der Post works for Wheels24, is a devoted mother and on Saturdays can either be found supporting her husband pitch-side or shouting for the All Blacks.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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