Bevan Rapson at the Rugby World Cup: Play-off to soothe the jitters

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We can be reasonably sure Richie McCaw hasn't got ahead of himself. Photo / Dean Purcell
We can be reasonably sure Richie McCaw hasn't got ahead of himself. Photo / Dean Purcell

Boy, I'm looking forward to tonight's play-off for third. For 80 minutes, I'll have something to take my mind off the weekend's other encounter.

While the Welsh and Wallabies go at it, I'll enjoy the rugby and try to forget about the jitters that took hold not long after the All Blacks played so well last Sunday night.

We could be pretty pleased with that semifinal win. But for me the happy glow began to cool on the walk back from Eden Park up Bond St, past a house with giant speakers and a crowd in the front yard, all blasting out Queen's anthem We Are the Champions.

What is wrong with these people?

I felt like sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting "la-la-la-la-la-la ..." in an attempt to nullify the challenge they had laid at fate's door.

But nothing could hold back the tide of bravado which flooded the city's pubs, newspaper columns and airwaves. We were brilliant, went the reasoning, and France were ordinary.

The result was assured. Now, where have we heard that one before?

Pundits blithely predicted the margin of an All Blacks triumph and we even had talk of a victory parade. All of which fed the feeling in the pit of my stomach that France could well defy expectations. The past tells us that form and confidence won't count for a brass centime on Sunday.

The tension is cranking up. I've got it quite bad myself but know others doing it worse: you can tell them by their distracted air, the twitching, gesticulating and jabbering. And no, I'm not just talking about TV3's Cup Talk.

As All Blacks supporters we're just not used to enduring so many weeks of cup pressure. By this stage, we're usually sulking or giving vent to a frenzy of recrimination, although I doubt we'd see much fury at a defeat on Sunday. Who would have the energy?

Here's hoping the All Blacks are doing a better job than some supporters in dealing with the build-up. My heart sank slightly on Wednesday when some Ali Williams press conference tomfoolery gave off more than a whiff of arrogance, unfortunately with Sonny Bill Williams drawn into the jolly japes.

But we can be reasonably sure the likes of McCaw, Mealamu, Thorn, Read and Kaino - the steely core of this All Black team - haven't got ahead of themselves.

Can they prevail if the French turn on the fireworks? We'll only know that on Sunday night and, in the meantime, must take distraction where we can find it.

Go Wales. Come on Australia. Can I work this twitching into a Mexican wave?

- NZ Herald

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