The much-loved and possibly much-feared Sunwolves mascot is no more.
The savage, dishevelled wolf nicknamed Pinging by a Herald reporter last year, a handle which stuck, has made way for a pale imitation – a caricature, even.
Super Rugby's creepy canid and the representative of the Tokyo-based franchise was christened 'Pinging' - a slang term for a state of increased anxious activity, typically induced by an amphetamine - by reporter Matt Nippert in February, 2016.
Many news outlets – and Super Rugby's official twitter account - assumed the name was kosher and so Pinging it was, until now, unfortunately, because the new mascot is far less terrifying and probably far more child-friendly. The new one looks like a cartoon of the old one, with all the wholesomeness (and irrelevance) of an official Olympic mascot.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
All of which is rather a shame, we feel. The Sunwolves' marketing department might prefer the cuddlier wolf, but the vicious beast that adorns the franchise's badge remains true to the original, so that's something, and there was little that was friendly about the team's approach to the Blues last year – a 48-21 humiliation in the last round which shocked the rugby world.
It was one of only two victories for the Sunwolves last year. Now they are led for former Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, who doubles as Japan coach, and the former All Black has signed former Highlanders Craig Millar, Hayden Parker and Robbie Robinson.
Pinging is no more, but the wolf's spirit lives on in Joseph's determination to bring success to a franchise which is preparing for only its third season.
Joseph said fans could expect a "much stronger team than we've had in the past two seasons", one which plays "consistent and attractive rugby that people want to come and watch and support".
We at the Herald loved Pinging for his or her zest for life and sheer inappropriateness. RIP Pinging.