If there's one thing I knew about New Zealand before moving here (aside from lush green rolling hills), it's that New Zealanders live and breathe rugby. I first heard of the All Blacks when I watched the movie Invictus in 2009. Remember this scene?
At the time, all of that chanting had no context for me. I didn't know who the All Blacks were. I'm also embarrassed to say I was quite oblivious to Maori culture. Never could I have imagined I'd be living in New Zealand five years later watching my very first All Blacks game.
Last weekend The All Blacks, New Zealand's national rugby union team, came to Napier for the first time since 1996 to play Argentina's Los Pumas in McLean Park. The All Blacks arrived a week before the game, which had Hawke's Bay's 55,000+ residents all a buzz. There were Argentinian fiestas, a fan zone in West Quay, Ahuriri and plenty of All Blacks appearances throughout the week. It was great to see my little town of Napier come to life.
Each morning on my way to work, I spotted All Blacks players heading over to the Ocean Spa Gym and felt a hint of star struck excitement, resisting the urge to toot my horn at the players crossing the street. Rain didn't dampen the enthusiasm on the day of the game. Fans turned out to the sold out park for the match they'd been waiting 18 years for.
Before the match began, The All Blacks performed the haka that I'd been so anxiously anticipating. It gave me chills. How cool to have been part of such a classic kiwi experience and have The All Blacks in Napier while I'm living here!
I'm slowly but surely learning a bit more about rugby. This All Blacks game was only the third time I'd ever watched a game.
I found it interesting to compare the New Zealand sporting experience to American games...
For instance, I was shocked that people sat down for the majority of the game. Especially with the rain and wet seats, I had expected we would be standing; nope, we sandwiched into those seats and drenched our underwear!
This little cluster is called a scrum.
And this is a line out. I love watching them throw each other in the air.
In rugby a goal is called a try, which I don't quite get... shouldn't you try to get a goal? ;)
In New Zealand, they call the wave the 'Mexican Wave.' Why? No idea.
They also cheer "Go The All Blacks!" Shouldn't it just be, "Go All Blacks!"? When in Rome...
People streak in New Zealand too... but this was my first time seeing a female streaker. Needless to say, the crowd went wild and it was pretty hilarious watching the security guys frantically chase a naked woman across the field as she slapped one of the All Blacks on the butt.
All in all, it was a fantastic game and an awesome experience. It didn't hurt that the All Blacks won 28 to 9.
For the first time in almost 9 months here in Napier, I was actually able to experience a bar full of crowded people dancing! What a fun weekend. Go The All Blacks!