While AC/DC's Back in Black blasted out over the stadium the marching girls were probably freezing under their tights. But at least they were moving to the music, now the poor things have to stand still in the pouring rain and icy wind while announcements are made. Meantime, up in the media booth, safe and warm, there is a battle brewing over the lack of Wi-Fi.
There are tense exchanges between the media liaisons and reporters who were unaware that the only Wi-Fi available was not free and, at times, very slow. I find it strange watching these old veteran reporters arguing over this. It feels like days gone by where a single phone line would mean the difference between the news being on the front page the next day or the back page the day after.
It quietens down as the teams run out. I used to think it was strange that All Blacks never came out in warm track suits even if the weather was particularly bad. But I suppose there's no correlation to performance, so it can't really matter. However the visual effect is stunning. I also see for the first time ineffective flash bulbs going off as the All Blacks launch in to Kapa O Pango.
Let me describe my position in the booth.
Where I am there’s two rows of three reporters. I’m in the middle of the front row, behind me to my left is Jim Kayes (not as much of an idiot as he is on TV, but clearly miffed to be sitting at the back). Everyone else is South African. And loud. Roussow’s sending off in the early stages caused some incredibly loud and angry outbursts from my South African counterparts. Overheard later “it’s not fucking ballet!” My Afrikaans is terrible but it seems that we cheat a lot and the referee is biased. The Springbok’s first try is “justice”, so is Dan Carter’s missed penalty before halftime.
The crowd was loud too. A roaring sea of black with the occasional splash of yellow from an empty seat reminded me of the sold-out crowds to see the Phoenix in the play-offs. But not quite, this crowd is much, much louder.
While football fans may chant and sing and talk your ear off about how beautiful the game is, rugby fans sit in the pouring rain on cold July evening and scream their lungs out. This is rugby country and despite the best attempts of the management to sell their souls to Coca Cola they won’t change the fact that New Zealanders really, actually like to watch rugby. A standing ovation came for Rene Ranger’s diving corner try and hushed silence and then a mighty roar following the replays on the big screen and ref's eventual whistle.
I am enjoying the South African company but shit they whinge a lot. Which probably makes them a lot like us. These are guys I want to drink with. But in a very loud pub. They gave polite applause to Israel Dagg’s try though. His dance through the South African defence showing that it was fucking ballet.
The similarities between us are apparent. They call things that they see like forward passes then complain about referee (later I laugh as during a replay on the TV I hear behind me "oh sorry, I thought that was forward"). And Rene Ranger never used his arms, no matter how many times they looked at the replays. I got a very weird look when I pointed out his arms wrapping around in the reverse angle, like I was pointing to a UFO.
They count out loud the number of All Blacks they see as offside. They complain about de Villiers leaving Francois Louw on. They say "Louw" in a deep lyrical baritone. The guy behind me has a voice with an octave that sits somewhere around his knees.
Overall it's enjoyable. The air is affable and the rugby is a pleasure to watch (though next time I need to remember my binoculars). As I walked out I bumped into Justin Marshall as he lined up for the loo. His hair is really bad in person too.
All of Mike's Photos are available at his site.