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ICONS ARE BETTER #49: THE ALL BLACKS

A country of just four million is home to arguably the most dominant team in sport – ever.

They have a win percentage of 78%.

And have only been defeated by five nations since their debut in 1903.

I’m talking, of course, about the icons that are the New Zealand All Blacks.

Most countries in the world enjoy a national sport of some sort. In New Zealand their national sport is more akin to a religion. The early rugby successes in the early 20th century came at a time when the country itself was building as a nation; and therefore their first taste of winning in 1903 against Great Britain – a revered power in world politics at the time – took on mythological status.

And, talking of mythology, which other nation has a pre-match ritual as famed and feared as the All Blacks haka? The team has taken on the traditional Maori dance and made it their own (literally in 2005 when a new version “Kapo O Pango/Team in Black”) was composed in their honour.

Many great players have come and gone over the years. But the black shirt with the silver fern remains a talisman for the nation. Nowadays it’s not unusual for city councils to turn off street-lights and plunge their citizens into “Black Out” as a sign of support for the national team whenever they’re in town for a big game. The fusilage of Air NZ planes are adorned with the faces of the most popular players. There is even a national debate to change the flag to match the team’s colours.

For an island that is positioned so far south that it’s almost falling off the edge of the globe, the All Blacks have ensured through their rugby prowess that New Zealand is now firmly on the map.

Abbi Tarrant

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