Rugby: Playing in losing side a learning curve, says Nonu

By Wynne Gray

Ma'a Nonu isn't used to losing and the string of defeats suffered by the Blues has been a novel experience. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Ma'a Nonu isn't used to losing and the string of defeats suffered by the Blues has been a novel experience. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Only friends and family see how rugby players deal with defeat; the public get rare glimpses into that painful world.

We watched the despair when the All Blacks fell at the 2007 World Cup and there was a celebrated moment in Christchurch in 1998 when the All Blacks arrived en masse to a press conference after another defeat.

Shock rippled through the ranks after France's "try from the end of the earth" sent the All Blacks to successive losses at Eden Park in 1994.

The Blues are enduring far worse this season, even worse than the Crusaders who won two, drew one and lost eight matches in 1996. This Blues group have won two games and lost 11 matches already.

It's been a novel experience for Ma'a Nonu who shifted to the Blues when he was rejected by the Hurricanes after more than 100 games for the franchise. In between he revelled in the World Cup triumph and enjoyed an off-season in Japan.

First game back with the Blues the side beat the Bulls in Pretoria but since then just one more win. For someone used to success, it has been an exasperating trip for Nonu.

His will to win burns as badly but the road has been pretty bumpy. Nonu does not want to apportion any blame.

"It is what it is, it's happened. We have made it hard for ourselves and that is the truth. We haven't really played well."

Blame it on me, he suggested with that mischievous streak which can accompany him.

He accepted that the public had expectations about the Blues this season and they had been unable to deliver anywhere near those notions.

After his trip to Japan he felt fine. He went through a bit of a flat patch but thought his form graph was on the rise.

That will be good news for the Blues supporters who will study his duel tonight with the Chiefs' Sonny Bill Williams while the All Black selectors will be encouraged by the 66-test veteran's thirst for the year ahead.

"The big beast is playing the best rugby he has for some time and he has not fallen short of expectations," said Nonu. "He is getting used to the 15-man game and probably been the form back of the year. He has worked hard in the off season and proved lots of his critics wrong."

How did someone with a celebrated career like Nonu cope with the lingering losing sequence at the Blues?

"It is hard because when it is a repeating process you feel like you are going backwards," he said.

"I tend to look at myself and say it is my fault."

Then Nonu got frisky and introspective in the same sentence as he wondered if he had wrecked the Blues dynasty, if he was responsible for putting the rugby giant to sleep. There was a grin and a frown competing for space on his face at the same time.

But he did get serious when he reckoned the adversity would help his game.

"Yeah you learn about yourself a bit more. It's much easier when you are in a great side like the All Blacks and everyone is doing their job. But being in Japan and now the Blues has taught me a lot

"You can love the game so much but it can take its toll, it can be depressing. It's not just a game it goes deeper than that."

It is an occupation for Nonu and for most of the season, there has not been much glee to report at the end of each day.

- NZ Herald

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