Yesterday the group arrived at Hawke’s Bay and we are billeted in the charming town/village of Havelock of some 13,000 inhabitants near Napier. It was our first taste of provincial New Zealand. The airport terminal was one building and the baggage reclaim a designated area with no carousel but where luggage was conveyed by trolley.
We had lunch with the ex-chairman of Hawke’s Bay rugby club. As we walked to the restaurant, I noticed a big four floor estate agency called Tremains and asked whether it was any relation to the legendary All Black flanker Kel Tremain. The very same, came the reply.
He started the business but sadly died within 7 weeks of being diagnosed of cancer aged 54 in May 1992.
A true legend, he played 86 times for the All Blacks and in his career scored 186 tries in 268 first class appearances.
I know of no other national side that have dominated their sport more than the All Blacks. The West Indies in cricket went 15 years without losing a Test but they are a confederation whose test calibre – some might say integrity- could not withstand the lucre of t20 cricket. Brazil has won 5 World Cups but Germany, Italy, Argentina and France have won too. The All Blacks might have choked in a World Cup or two but to face them is the sternest examination of your rugby credentials.
Our host attributed this to a schools system that ensure the conveyor belt continues. The match between the two leading Auckland schools – King’s College and Auckland Grammar – attracts a crowd of 7,000 and diligent training adapts the more carefree Polynesian style to the All Black technical requirements.
See here for a video of the haka as performed before one of the King College v Auckland Grammar matches, courtesy of – YOUTUBE
The Paekakariki Express was arguably the finest running full back of all time and second most capped All Black in his position.
Finally you cannot be selected for the All Blacks if you play abroad.
One might mention the selection of Samoans but flags of convenience do not just fly here.
The All Black kit, the silver fern, the haka, the use of similar names in the national sport sides like the Black Caps in cricket and Tall Blacks in basketball are not just branding but a symbol of national sporting prowess and virility.
All this is why each and every All Black defeat is cherished by the victor.