Ian Foster has been Rugby Twitter's main character for almost three weeks now.
It's been rough out there in the comment sections ever since the hooter sounded on an All Blacks era too often plagued by mediocrity.
Foster and the All Blacks are now in limbo, left scrambling in a scrum of uncertainty by their employers New Zealand Rugby, whose lack of transparency and trial-by-review governance – not helped by a few Covid speed bumps – has left many fans alienated and seething.
The fans have, frankly, had enough – and they're making their feelings heard online.
The All Blacks, of course, have long evolved from just a team that plays on linear television for distant fans – non-playable characters in the national game. Fans are now a thumb swipe away from instant access and direct communication; the sense of ownership and belonging seems to be louder, if not stronger, than ever.
You can now shout into the void and know that someone is probably going to see it. The blue checkmark All Blacks definitely have.
On Sunday 17 July, the great All Blackout hit the internet. All of a sudden All Blacks communications – via press conferences or social media – went dark. The All Blacks were nowhere to be found online for almost five days, the last interaction being an ill-timed celebration post of players who earned new caps during their historic series loss.
"Capping our five newest All Blacks. Congratulations lads," said the All Blacks socials after the team lost its fourth game in five tests. Multiple fans replied with the same joke: "How about you cap a new coach."
How about you cap a new coach— CFCDan (@DannCFC21) July 17, 2022
The national rugby team decided to take a mental health break from the internet. The crowd went wild.
The radio silence lasted until it was finally time to announce a squad for the tour of South Africa. "Hey look, the All Blacks are talking to us now after a week of hiding."
Hey look, the All Blacks are talking to us now after a week of hiding!!!🤣— Sound of Sugar 🎶💰 (@soundofsugar) July 22, 2022
The intense negativity and discontent has been palpable ever since, and it doesn't look like it will dissipate until the fans get what they want. An unscientific poll on the Herald before the final Ireland test showed that 86 per cent of fans wanted Foster gone if the All Blacks lost.
Some fans are now almost actively rooting against their own team. "I will be happy if they win and will be delighted if they lose and much more ecstatic if they lose both games against Boks. May be a blessing in disguise," said one fan in a popular comment after the All Blacks' recent team announcement.
It must not be easy for Foster, who is not solely to blame for the All Blacks' decline, but like most backlash cycles on the internet, he should know that none of this is personal – or at least that it isn't, you know, real.
As Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said this week, when you're a top coach in a rugby mad nation, the prospect of being sacked is simply a reality of the job: "If you are a coach or a player you are two poor games from being dropped, and you are two poor games away from being fired. That is the reality and one lives with that."
It's all created a strange feeling going into two massive tests against the Springboks. Foster and the All Blacks could very well bounce back. But will it be enough to quiet the noise?
The next Usain Bolt
If you're not familiar with the name Letsile Tebogo, it's time to jump on the bandwagon.
The 19-year-old Botswanan broke the under-20 100m world record this week at the World Athletics U20 Championships, smashing his own record with a time of 9.91s.
Aside from the result – and his effortless, near perfect form – it was the way that he did it that caught attention.
As Tebogo separated himself from the pack with about 20 metres to go, he turned around to his closest competitor and gave him a cheeky finger wag, recalling Usain Bolt's early celebration at the 2008 Olympics when he ran the 100m final in 9.69s (a world record he would break again the next year).
In fact, the similarity wasn't a coincidence, as Tebogo said it was an homage to his "idol".
"If somebody took it as disrespect, I'm really sorry. I saw the fans and [it was so] everybody watching at home can enjoy the race – to remind them a little bit about what Usain Bolt did back in the days," Tebogo said after the race. "He's my idol – the person I look up to."
With so much room to develop and improve, Tebogo might have more to do with Bolt and his records yet.
Politicians, they're just like us!
National Party leader Christopher Luxon isn't exactly the most social media savvy politician out there posting.
But at least his recent Facebook post about catching some New Zealand ice hockey action was just cringe and not scandalous. This time there was photographic evidence that he was actually where he said he was.
"The Botany Swarm got the job done 6-3 over the Canterbury Red Devils at Paradice Botany tonight," Luxon wrote alongside a photo of himself wearing supporters gear. "On top of watching a great match on the ice, I enjoyed chatting with East Aucklanders over some hot chips and a Coke Zero Sugar, the best sport watching meal!"
Unfortunately for Luxon, his post was more #robot than #relatable, and he ended up getting memed.
Idea for Luxon's next sports post: "The New Zealand All Blacks were defeated in a close battle with the South Africa Springboks. I enjoyed watching rugby from my couch with a nice cold Kiwi Steinlager Pure, the best beverage to drown your sorrows!"