All Blacks’ fans are as insufferable as those who love United

(File, AFP)
(File, AFP)

Johannesburg - Is it just me or have All Blacks supporters overtaken their Manchester United counterparts as the most obnoxious fans roaming the earth?

My resentment of the Men In Black’s supporters – thanks to a dismissive comment here about the opposition, a smug remark there about yet another historic victory – has been growing over the past few years, which we should simply call the Steve Hansen years.

But because I’m mindful that the kids are forever imploring us to “hate the game, not the player”, I’ve steadfastly checked myself from hating as Hansen’s side went unbeaten in 2013, establishing a world record 18-match winning streak en route to losing just five games and drawing twice in 71 games since 2012.

Interview subjects

To gain a sense of how good the Blacks have been under Hansen, you have to consider that not only had he not lost more than one game to another coach going into Saturday’s decider against the British and Irish Lions, he had not lost a series.

Yet when the outpouring of schadenfreude hit social media after the All Blacks lost the second Test to the British and Irish Lions last weekend, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who was getting annoyed by their fans.

Before this is read as some rant against the All Blacks, I need to make it clear that I love them as much as the next man. When you watch New Zealand play, it’s a bit like watching Brazil at soccer or Roger Federer in tennis – it’s a constant highlights package of how the game should be played.

So there is little not to love about the All Blacks. This is from the inspired way they play their rugby; their simple but fetching jersey design (Springbok green and gold does little for anyone’s fashion sense) to how humble and engaging I’ve found their players – some of them legends such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter – as interview subjects.

That’s why even a gnarled old Bok supporter like me can be on a nickname basis – Ted for Graham Henry, Shag for Hansen, Beaudy for Beauden Barrett and The Bus for Julian Savea – with the key figures in their teams whenever they come up as a topic for discussion.

(Well, either that or I have too many All Black nutters for friends).

Braggart fans

In a way, this is probably why I’m railing against the celebrity culture supporting the All Blacks. Some time ago, it was a way of life because they were a snapshot of everything good about a rugby union, but now some gloating prats have come into the picture with each record they’ve broken.

You see it on the New Zealand rugby show The Breakdown when Jeff Wilson and Jim Kayes wrack their brains on screen for a few seconds and come to the conclusion that nobody would beat the All Blacks’ fifth stringers.

Then you see it on social media and at pubs, when their bastard fans verbally pat you on the head patronisingly for having the temerity to think your team (in this case the Boks) may beat their all-conquering team in about 10 years’ time.

The fact that they’re actually right not only makes it worse, but it also tells you – to paraphrase “Steamin” Willie Beamen from Any Given Sunday – that it would appear that the All Blacks’ success has gone to their supporters’ heads.

We keep getting told that the All Blacks have a “no dickheads” rule, where senior players are expected to sweep the changing rooms to keep all their players grounded. By the looks of it, the message of humility has failed to filter down to their braggart fans.

I must admit I liked the All Blacks supporters better when they fell apart at the prospect of a World Cup knockout game, but now that the team has discovered the cure to choking, they’ve simply become insufferable.

To the All Blacks’ new-money fans, we know how great your team is: only losing by three points after playing with 14 men for 50 minutes against the Lions last weekend drops a few broad hints to the fact.

But can you stop force-feeding us the message at every opportunity?

Follow me on Twitter @Simxabanisa

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