So there we were, chatting away at half-time of the Bok-Fiji clash on the weekend, somewhat secure in the knowledge that we would be progressing to the semifinal. A try just before the break had done nothing to dampen this enthusiasm. It was probably just a matter of time before we completely imposed ourselves on the Fijians and ran away with the match.
Nearly a day earlier, millions of Kiwi fans went into the half-time break in their game against France, secure in the knowledge that they would be progressing to the semifinal. It was just a matter of time before they completely imposed themselves on the French and ran away with the match.
On the surface of it, the similarities between the two situations were noticeable; even the half-time score in both matches was the same — 13-3 in favour of the favourites.
But what a difference 40 minutes can make.
Although given a good fright and wake-up call, we managed to do what we had to in order to progress. We managed to keep composure when it mattered. Forward passes aside, the New Zealanders did not.
The disbelief and outcry that followed the Kiwi loss was something to behold. It was the reaction of a team and public who had never considered the possibility of losing; who taken for granted a World Cup win.
Now, holding the World Cup aloft is not a right. It must be earned, and for too long, so it seems in the eyes of New Zealanders, this had been a fait accompli. The devastation at the loss bears this out.
Although confidence is to be applauded, getting ahead of oneself is not.
Maybe, just maybe, being in a few sticky situations will be a blessing for us. And the New Zealanders haven’t come across too many of these in recent times.
This is not meant to belittle our own possible disappointment should we not win, or the importance of a win for the country. But I don’t think there are too many South Africans who have taken the World cup for granted.
Confident, yes, taken for granted, no.
The argument may well be used that with the exit of the Kiwis, the world’s best team did not win the tournament. Be that as it may, only one team will be called world champions for the next four years.
And it won’t be New Zealand.