Here in New Zealand, it seems as though there’s only one subject on the mind of the nation. That topic, unsurprisingly, is rugby.
Now, we’re down to the business end of the World Cup tournament. The country is full of people more than willing to share their thoughts with complete strangers as to who they think will choke during the quarter finals and who they’re adamant will make it to Eden Park on the 23rd October.
It’s not just the people of our fine nation who are making their predictions known, though – we’ve even got animals hedging their bets. Thus far, we’ve had psychic forecasts from a sheep named Sonny Wool Williams, who has correctly predicted a successful outcome for the All Blacks during the Pool matches, and a black and white cow (aptly named Richie McCow) whose psychic credentials came under scrutiny after he picked the French to beat the All Blacks. Somehow, I think his celebrity career will be dramatically cut short!
Rather than rely on bovine channelling higher powers to tell me who is likely to make it to the semi finals, I decided to conduct my own (highly unscientific, poorly researched and probably rather
unreliable) opinion poll by asking my friends and work colleagues what their predictions were for the quarter finals.
While there was no clear consensus, this is what most of them agreed on:
Given the results of the Pool A matches, most New Zealanders are quietly confident that the English will trounce the French. However, the Brits have been relatively inconsistent during their pool matches and our opinions seem to be a bit divided as to how far they’ll get beyond the quarter finals.
Much like the English and the French, there’s always been a bit of inter-country rivalry between New Zealand and Australia. In fact, most Kiwis live by the mantra that, both in sports and in life, we will always support New Zealand… and whoever is playing against the Aussies.
This mentality has got us into a wee bit of trouble over the past few weeks, with some Australian visitors complaining that we’ve been a bit mean by not showing them the same Kiwi hospitality that other nations’
visitors have been receiving. Naturally, most of us have told them to just get over it and to stop whining. Well, all except for the people of the small town of Nelson, where the township’s Mayor, Aldo Miccio, felt so bad about the discrimination against our guests in gold that he organised New Zealand’s first (and probably only) Hug an Aussie Day.
However, in the instance of the quarter final between Australia and South Africa, we’re a bit stumped as to which team we should spur on to victory. Popular opinion and the consistent performance of their team points to South Africa being the victors on the night but, strategically speaking, a Boks win might cause us some grief later on.
Secretly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few New Zealanders dusted off their Wallabies scarfs that they’ve kept hidden for emergencies only and even find themselves cheering on the man dubbed Public Enemy Number One, Quade Cooper.
It’s not going to win me any Welsh friends when I tell you that the Irish side are favoured by many to win their quarter final. New Zealanders seem to have adopted the Irish side as their second most-favourite team, as Ireland’s spectacular victory over the Wallabies put a dent in the pride of many an Australian, giving us Kiwis a reason to boast to our neighbours across the ditch. It might be a long shot, but most of us are hoping that either the Irish or the Welsh beat the English and make it to the final.
Given the extreme bias of my poll, the All Blacks are seen as a safe bet against the Pumas. Sure, we might be without part time underwear model and full- time fly half Dan Carter due to what sounds like a pretty serious groin injury, but we’re hoping the team will be able to compensate for our surprising loss by supporting relative newbie Colin Slade.
As for my predictions for the All Blacks? Well, given that we have a huge propensity to choke at the most inappropriate of times during Rugby World Cups, I’m not going to hedge my bets on any one outcome.
Ideally, though, I’m hoping that the All Blacks have a fairly easy run against the Argentinian side and that we face the Wallabies in the semi-finals, as I think that a Springboks side would make our team work far harder for a qualifying spot in the finals.
Who will make it into the final two, though? Only time will tell!