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Andrew Alderson: What happens if the All Blacks lose?

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How will All Black fans react if the side fall to Australia tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker
How will All Black fans react if the side fall to Australia tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker

If reaction to last week's win over Argentina is a judge, New Zealand rugby fans are ill-prepared for another bout of misery should the Wallabies knock the All Blacks out of the World Cup tonight.

You'd think after 24 years trying to regain the Webb Ellis Cup, All Blacks fans would be conditioned for failure.

The team's depth is stretched, as demonstrated cobbling together a 33-10 win against Argentina despite only being up 18-10 in the 66th minute and handing a brief lead to Los Pumas late in the first half.

Yet woe betide any suggestion the All Blacks are less than perfect as this columnist did while completing a set of ratings on the quarter-final.

"Who on earth pays you to come up with such rubbish? Typical New Zealand World Cup panic... You win my award for pathetic, hysterical journalism," cried Rob for daring to suggest Argentina had excelled themselves and given the heavy favourite All Blacks a shock.

"Weepu needs to make a lot more cover tackles and never made one snipe from the scrum base; he took far too many steps at times before he released his pass and was too slow organising the hit-ups," lamented Jim.

So much for any gratitude that Weepu might have taken charge directing the team, especially with Cruden at first-five from the 33rd minute - a man who'd been enjoying a spot of skateboarding and a couple of off-season beers the previous week.

As for Tom, he was furious about Cory Jane's drunken antics getting a mention: "You want him to look bad because he got drunk four days before a game, which has been blown massively out of proportion. This media hype that Cory Jane was so badly drunk is only destroying the integrity of the New Zealand support, so stop with the stupid comments."

Paul, an email hero who refused to give his last name, showed a crayon wielding intelligence: "Your (sic) a muppet, did you watch the game???" A response produced a bouncing email. He'd set up an address, sent an email, and cancelled the address in a cyberspace hit-and-run.

So the much-vaunted "stadium of four million" can get tetchy with suggestions New Zealand might struggle. That's the reality of being welded to the notion a red carpet should be laid down for a New Zealand World Cup victory as of right. We brim with expert analysts who know what they're on about because they played the game "x number of years to such-and-such a level".

Such CVs are rolled out ad nauseam but at least democracy, on rugby matters, is alive. It's healthy New Zealanders have opinions they're comfortable offering in the interests of robust debate. However, sometimes we have to be analytical and leave the pom-poms and thundersticks at home.

Passion and support is welcome, but experience says we castigate losing All Blacks teams irrationally. Win or lose today, keep a lid on the fickleness, please. Paradoxically the real test for the success of this tournament comes if the All Blacks are knocked out. Can we sustain the fond memories for visitors through to a final without the All Blacks?

Can we embrace the tournament even if someone else, like Robbie Deans' Wallabies, triumph? Or, will that vengeful streak escape; the one we save for accusing as yet unidentified waitresses in South Africa of poisoning food in 1995, pelting coach John Hart's New Zealand Cup horse with beer cans in 1999, or blaming English referees for missing forward passes in 2007.

The reality is the All Blacks have an arduous, albeit short, journey from here to win - but without vital players. The other contenders remain more than capable in the neutral fan's mind - that's what has made this tournament riveting.

The All Blacks are talented athletes, but hopefully a better team can be acknowledged if that time comes.

- Herald on Sunday

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Covers sport across NZME's print, digital and radio brands.

Andrew writes and broadcasts on cricket and the Olympic disciplines for NZME's print, digital, video and radio platforms. His most recent project followed New Zealand sportspeople competing in Europe during the 2015 northern summer. He has attended four cricket World Cups, three Olympics and regularly works as a correspondent overseas.

Read more by Andrew Alderson

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