Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rubgy: Booze culture stripped out

All Blacks in 2004. Photo / Geoff Sloan
All Blacks in 2004. Photo / Geoff Sloan

It was seeing All Blacks having to be put into the recovery position by some of their Springbok adversaries that led to widespread change in New Zealand rugby.

A court session held in South Africa in 2004 was the last act of condoned debauchery and the moment the All Blacks realised they had to change, that the whole New Zealand rugby fraternity had to kick the endemic booze culture for touch.

The All Blacks had been well beaten by the Boks at Ellis Park and yet, because it was the last game of the Tri Nations, the players had a ritual drinking session that got out of hand. By the end of the night, players had collapsed in the grounds of their hotel and others had to be put to bed, covered in vomit.

"It was the norm at that time," former first-five Nick Evans told the Daily Telegraph last year. "There was still the amateur ethos. What made it worse was that we had a terrible campaign.

"Afterwards, it was Wayne Smith who said, 'I don't want to be involved with the All Blacks if it's going to be like this'."

When they returned home, the coaches and senior players agreed they had to end the drinking and instil higher standards of personal responsibility.

The "better people make better All Blacks" mantra was coined and, in the following months, Super Rugby teams followed suit and drove out the worst elements of the amateur days and said it was no longer OK for professional athletes to binge drink as an accepted part of high-performance culture.

- Herald on Sunday

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