Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Sideline Champs: All Blacks fans risk revving rivals

All Blacks selector Grant Fox has first-hand experience of the effects a crowd can have on an athlete. Photo / Richard Robinson
All Blacks selector Grant Fox has first-hand experience of the effects a crowd can have on an athlete. Photo / Richard Robinson

All Blacks legend Grant Fox believes Kiwi fans booing kicks at international matches could be shooting themselves in the foot.

Fox has joined calls for supporters to behave better, ahead of next weekend's All Blacks test against the French at Eden Park - the first time the two teams have met since New Zealand triumphed in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.

The pressure is on Eden Park fans to show they can be good sports, after Rugby NZ 2011 boss Martin Snedden pronounced himself "very disappointed" at incidents during that tournament.

Fox, an All Black selector, has applauded the Herald on Sunday Sideline Champs campaign, saying he is right behind it.

In an interview for tomorrow's paper, he suggests All Blacks fans would be better to unnerve rookie French kicker Camile Lopez by going dead quiet while he lines up his kick, rather than crudely booing him.

Fox knows a thing or two about being heckled by supporters. He kicked the All Blacks to glory at the inaugural Rugby World Cup final in 1987 - also against the French.

Ahead of Saturday's match, he thinks it is time the boo-boys called time on their antics.
"Supporters have been doing this since before I was born but I am not a fan of it at all and it is very disrespectful towards the opposition," he says. "The irony is that the louder the crowd booed me, the harder I would dig in.

"The All Blacks supporters might think they are putting players off by heckling them at kicks, but they could be having exactly the opposite effect and firing them up even more. Maybe it is time to pack it in."

Fox recalls the most un-nerving moments he experienced came during a game against Munster in Ireland during the 1989 All Blacks tour. Opposing fans fell silent whenever he took a kick.

"You get so used to the booing that when it didn't happen it put me off my stride," he says. "It was the first time I had heard a ground go silent and I can even remember hearing people saying "shush" as I approached the ball. It was weird."

Fox adds: "Instead of heckling the French whenever they get a kick, maybe the New Zealand supporters should go quiet. It might be more effective and it would certainly be more sportsman-like."

However, fellow former All Black Sir John Kirwan thinks the booing is not malicious and is simply part of the game.

"Being booed never bothered me much because I never had to kick for New Zealand," he jokes. "It wouldn't have made any difference because they would all have gone over, whether I was heckled or not."

- Herald on Sunday

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