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Jack Tame: Stories are what gives sport its magic

Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 28 Oct 2023, 9:53AM
Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

Jack Tame: Stories are what gives sport its magic

Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 28 Oct 2023, 9:53AM

“Historically, the All Blacks haven’t faced too much adversity. But here it is. The team is at odds and ends. The players are being criticised. The coaches and their bosses are being hammered in the press. 

Maybe they will falter. Maybe we’re watching the unravelling of a once-mighty team. Maybe Silver Lake has bought a dud. 

Or maybe, through whatever changes are necessary, and through the pluck and determination of a unit that can only be truly tested when its back is against the wall, the All Blacks will find a way to rise up.” 

Those were the words of famed rugby analyst Jack Tame on a radio station called Newstalk ZB, shortly after the All Blacks had lost a home series to Ireland for the first time. 

15 months on, I’ll be honest, my thoughts have been a bit muddled this week. 

Yes, I can rationalise that we’ve improved massively since that last encounter with the Springboks back in August. A 28-point deficit? Surely that won’t be repeated. I can rationalise that we’re fit. We’re coming off a slightly longer break. We’ve weathered the Irish storm. Our set piece is a thousand times better than it was, we’ve barely lost a lineout in the tournament and our outside backs are maybe the most exciting in World rugby. 

Buuuuuuuuuut, still. South Africa. They’re good. 

I feel for Dane Coles missing out. For years he’s defined what a hardy, mischievous hooker should be. I’m not bothered by the locking decision either way - Retallick to start and Whitelock on the bench - except to say that Sam Whitelock is a titan of a leader, and I can’t imagine a Rugby World Cup victory without him playing a massive role, whether off the bench or in the starting 15. 

Buuuuuuuuuut, still. South Africa. Gulp. 

The Springboks have named a 7-1 split. Seven forwards on the bench. That’s a gamble. 

Gambles can backfire. 

But if there’s anything… any one thing that can push the All Blacks over the edge… that can propel them to Word Champion status… That can secure a record fourth Rugby World Cup… It’s the story. 

It’s that doing so will be the pièce de résistance… the cherry on top of the whole Ian Foster fiasco. 

I was not someone who thought Ian Foster was the best man for a job. I’m still not! But I also think he’s been treated woefully over the last few years. And in the midst of a pretty awful situation, I think he acted with dignity and grit. 

Finishing up as the coach of the World Champions wouldn’t just be an incredibly satisfying conclusion to his All Blacks career. It’d be a hell of a middle finger to the haters. 

And I can never underestimate the power of stories in sport. Stories are what give sport its magic. I want to finish with another quote of mine from last year: 

“Maybe it’s lunacy to even ponder a World Cup victory next year. But crazier things have happened in sport.” 

“Often the greatest sporting narratives are those in which an athlete or a team overcomes adversity. Victory against all odds.” 

I said my thoughts had been a bit muddled this week. My head and my heart in a furious battle. But the closer we get to kick-off, the more clarity I have. 

Ultimately, I do know what I think. I think I was right to maintain that sliver of optimism even during trying times. I think the All Blacks will win. 

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