Sam Cane is right.
Most of us New Zealanders don't truly understand rugby at the top level. Even those of us on the outside who observe it closely don't see every minute of training – on the field or in the gym. We don't see the physical pain and mental anguish caused by injuries. We can't feel the disappointment of non-selection. We don't feel the pressure and weight of expectation. We don't really know it.
But, for a nation of individuals who have traditionally struggled to consistently express a full range of emotions, we know what we can see. We know when another team appears to be trying harder, or at the very least, is playing smarter.
Perception matters. Some of us don't like seeing All Blacks smiling and laughing with the opposition and each other after losing a test as happened at Suncorp Stadium following the 24-22 defeat to the Wallabies, a dispiriting a loss as ever there was until a week later when they were demolished 25-15 by Argentina in Sydney. But maybe that's the way these days. Maybe laughing can help and maybe those players have put the game in the right perspective. Others will disagree.
Most of us, with one or two notable exceptions, quite liked seeing the Argentines crying after beating the All Blacks for the first time in their history. It was moving to see how much it meant and few of us would have begrudged them the win after their build-up of precisely zero tests in 13 months and which included running defensive drills inside their hotel due to quarantine regulations.
Most of us know the rules pretty well, too, and in some cases better than the players, it seems. We know you can't slap the ball out of a halfback's hands when you're off your feet in a ruck, and yet there was Scott Barrett doing just that in front of the posts against the Wallabies in Brisbane for which he was shown a yellow card. We also know slapping an opponent's face isn't acceptable and that doing it directly in front of a match official is plain dumb.
Perception matters. Pumas skipper Pablo Matera's commitment to his nation and team was rightly lauded after the win and his comment to referee Angus Gardner after a scuffle that he and his teammates were representing their country and that they deserved respect was seen as a Churchillian-style rallying call.
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But what if Cane had said the same thing to Gardner? What if Michael Hooper says it this Saturday when the Wallabies play the Pumas? What about Owen Farrell when England played Georgia recently? I'm making assumptions here but it may instead have come across as arrogant and entitled rather than heroic and inspirational.
Cane, the newly appointed All Blacks captain, was being honest when interviewed on the Sky Sports Breakdown show. We like honesty as a nation and in fact we demand that the All Blacks face up to their recent failings with nothing but honesty. Then came the predictable media backlash.
But with privilege should come responsibility. The All Blacks are a team for every New Zealander. They make a virtue of it and have built (and sold to commercial partners) a legacy on the back of it.
So they will be criticised and they must accept that, even if some of the criticism is uninformed, and as we've established, much of it will be.
Cane, as tough a man and nice a bloke as you'll ever meet away from a rugby pitch, is right. We don't know it all but we know what we can see.