Sports

Groupangst: Hurricanes fans bare their anguished souls ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby Final

John Campbell, Kate De Goldi, Patrick Gower, Captain Hurricane and more tell us how they’re feeling in the leadup to a big night for supporters of the country’s greatest rugby side.

As any enlightened person will tell you, the Hurricanes are blessed with the most insightful and elegant supporters in the world of sport, whom by some sublime coincidence also tend to reside now, or did at a formative period in their lives, within the bottom half of the North Island, New Zealand.

They are at the same time, however, burdened by years of disappointment, and predisposed to quite a lot of self-doubt and superstition and generally ridiculous claptrap.

As the mighty Hurricanes prepare, then, for their clash with a team from South Africa who are reportedly called the Lions and for the second consecutive year an opportunity to break their Super Rugby title duck, we contacted some of our favourite members of this black and yellow tribe, and put to them this question:

How are you feeling – no, really feeling – ahead of the Super Rugby final on Saturday? And a score prediction?

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John Campbell

I’m feeling supremely confident. Supremely. As I’ve felt supremely confident in advance of every game we’ve played since the Super 12 began, in 1996, in Palmerston North (truly!), with the Hurricanes playing the Blues in the competition’s very first game. I knew we’d win that. It’s a gift I have, seeing the future. We lost.

That was 20 years ago. Since then, the Crusaders have won seven Super tournaments and the Hurricanes haven’t won one. Yet. Obviously, that’s coming to an end on Saturday night. I’m certain of it.

The thing is, and people with some experience of winning won’t understand this, we’ve been waiting so that it would mean more. Jerry, Jonah, Rodney, Chris, Filo, Tana, Christian, Alama, Piri, Ma’a, Conrad – what beautiful players. But none of them ever won it with the Hurricanes. And that was deliberate. Their immense sacrifice, their profound selflessness, means that on Saturday night our victory will really mean something. Oh, Canterbury, you can have your seven trophies with their Tinder-swipe ease, we’ve courted this tournament, old school style. Written it poetry. Bought it flowers. Asked it out, shyly, to the movies and a church fete. And on Saturday, when we finally pop the question, the answer will be “yes.”

Yes.

I’m going down to Wellington, with my son, and my lifelong friend Tim – another expat Wellingtonian now living in Auckland. We want to be there to see it. All these years in the making. Jerry gone. Jonah gone. Their absence such a terrible unfairness. Athletic Park gone. Cory, 33 now. Victor playing his 100th, and final, Hurricanes game. All of it adding up to make it so much more than just one final.

We’ll stand in Westpac Stadium and we’ll take it in. Like the fathers in The Whitsun Weddings, overwhelmed by the absurdity of it all. All those years in the making. All the players we’ve cheered for who didn’t win it, but who we always believed could, and would, and deserved to. Sport writes its own history. But not this Saturday. This Saturday, it’s written in the stars. And if the stars are wrong, then next season. Or the season after. It’s inevitable. I feel it, as l always have. It’s our year! Soon.

Score prediction: Hurricanes 31–14 Lions

John Campbell is a drivetime DJ on RNZ

Kate De Goldi

Well … the sting of last year’s final is finally abating, though am haunted by the pic of J Thrush on knees with head in hand at the finish. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the SR final, though not witlessly so – that is, Lions no pushover, have been playing v well and have three powerful backs who will score tries…but  the weather will be dire and Lions accustomed to drier grounds; Canes seemingly unfazed by the weather last Saturday.

We’re missing Dane C … Will the scrum hold? … It seemed to last Saturday … Hurricanes have the big mo … in great form … Lions have travelled after a torrid game against the Highlanders (on the other hand they’re on the ground and have plenty of time to recover, and they get to sleep in business class).

My punt re score: 28–26 to the Canes (Canes 3 tries, 2 converted; 3 penalties. Lions: 2 converted tries; 3 penalties; 1 drop goal. Canes winning with a Beaudie penalty in the last minute!)

Kate De Goldi is a brilliant author and the mother-in-law-to-be of former Hurricanes hero Jeremy Thrush

Toby Morris

Hurricanes prediction

Toby Morris is a cartoonist, illustrator and angry tenant

Samuel Flynn Scott

My brain feels confident. We have every reason to believe we will win. But my soul cries out in pain as it knows the darker reality that is THE CURSE. I’m going to a wedding and probably won’t see the game live, this gives us an even better chance of winning and if we do break THE CURSE I will congratulate the happy couple and myself for being truly powerful in the dark arts of SPORT MAGICK. Do what thou wilt Ardie, for thy sneakyness in the ruck shall be the whole of the Law.

29-16 to the Canes

Samuel Flynn Scott is a musick writer and player including with the ensemble Phoenix Foundation

Patrick Gower

It’s not my job to have an opinion, but in this case I will make an exception. I’ll resign if I’m wrong. And by the way, Steve Hansen will have to resign if he doesn’t start Beaudy at 10 for the ABs – it will be treason if he doesn’t.

Hurricanes by 15

Patrick Gower is the one from Newshub who goes “This is the fucking news”

Andrew Mulligan

How am I feeling? I’m feeling really good. Much better than last year. No, I’m not really because this Lions team is a really good unit and have several facets to their game. They’re really good at scoring long range tries and they’ve seen the Hurricanes rush/umbrella defence a million times before because that’s what they do in the Republic – they rush up. What has been really pleasing is the shut outs the Canes have been handing out and some them have experience of being in this very situation a season ago and not doing the job.

Hurricanes 32-15

Andrew Mulligan is a host on Radio Sport and The Crowd Goes Wild and he’s everywhere which is a good thing

Martin Devlin

Look I’m not thinking about it. That’s almost true. What I mean is that I’m not thinking about it aaaaall the time. In between ignoring the fact we’re once again hosting the Super rugby final, I’m pretending there are other things more important than some silly old knock-out cup chasing a piece of pigskin around a grassy field. So, no, I’m not at all nervous.

But I probably would be if I was thinking too much about it.

Score? Paranoia 1 Devlin 0 at this stage…

Martin Devlin is a host on Radio Sport and should be on the TV more

Celia Wade-Brown

I’m delighted I’ll be going to the final and expecting to see awesome rugby with the Hurricanes winning.

I’ll make a wild guess at 21-9

Celia Wade-Brown is the Mayor of Wellington

Julian Wilcox

For me, supporting the Hurricanes isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a matter of boyhood, belligerence, and belief. Born in Elderslea Hospital in Upper Hutt, taught at Brentwood Primary School, to Fergusson Intermediate, to Te Aute College, and then on to Victoria University, being a Hurricanes supporter is what you do.

From singing along with Lindsay Yeo and Buzz o’ Bumble, to trudging up the Millard Stand with your soggy hotdog and flat coke, to the utter despair of another glorious victory snatched from our hands by a myriad of teams and a litany of captious referees, life wouldn’t be the same without this great rugby history.

Hurricanes fans have been bred by 248km southerly wind gusts and the precipitous Ahumairangi. We’ll sing when we’re winning, and unfortunately we’ve had heaps of practice at singing when we’re losing too. From Preston to Perenara, Bull to Tongan Bear, we’ve been waiting 21 years for our shot at rugby immortality.

A Hurricanes supporter has been here before. We’ve been subjugated, castigated, and almost physically manipulated last year by over-exuberant Highlanders fans. We’ve heard the comments of other NZ rugby fans this week, that Hurricanes supporters are immeasurably better looking than them, or intellectually superior, and quite obviously humble. None of this lulls us in to a false sense of security. We know what’s at stake, and we are aware of the fact that our colleagues will probably trash our workspaces again if the unthinkable were to occur.

For 25 brave young men, however, Saturday night is just another game of rugby, playing an excellent South African rugby team. They’ll play their hearts out for us, score tries for us, kick conversions and penalties for us, and hopefully have more points for us than the other crew after 80 minutes.

But for one man born in Upper Hutt, taught at Brentwood School, Fergusson Intermediate, Te Aute College , and Victoria University, this isn’t just another rugby game. It’s another chance to reflect on the boyhood, belligerence, and belief of being a Hurricanes fan, and the fact that the Hurricanes are the greatest team in world franchise sports history.

Hurricanes to win it by a few – GO THE MIGHTY HURRICANES, GO!!! #HURRICANES #CATEGORY5

Julian Wilcox is chief operating officer, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, and formerly the best television current affairs interviewer in New Zealand

TJ Perenara, legend, hero and very good rugby player. PHOTO / GETTY

TJ Perenara, legend, hero and very good rugby player. PHOTO / GETTY

Madeleine Chapman

I’ve technically been a Hurricanes fan my whole life but my true fandom years were 2001-2007. It was never a conscious decision. I played rugby for the local club and at the pre-season weigh-in every year, each player was given a bag with a mouth guard, socks, a Mcdonalds cheeseburger voucher, and a Hurricanes team poster. The team poster went straight up on the wall next to my sister’s Backstreet Boys posters.

For reasons most likely to do with not having internet, I knew every Hurricane and All Black in those years. I didn’t have any real opinions on their playing abilities, I just knew who they were. With Wellington being Wellington, there were always slim personal connections with players to brag about at primary school. Lome Fa’atau coached one of my sister’s basketball teams. Another sister’s friend was dating Piri Weepu. And Jerry Collins was my cousin. I made sure that every friend and enemy of my nine-year-old self knew that I was related to Jerry Collins and got annoyed that he was never at the front of the posters because forwards are always in the back.

Every once in a while my brother or sister would take me along to a Hurricanes game and it was so exciting. So exciting until it was just so cold and we would be losing by so much and I would be so hungry.

I’ve always been a fan of the Hurricanes in the same way that many people are fans of NBA teams. I know all the names and will cheer them on but I never get emotionally invested in the outcome.

But after this long, I just want them to win.

Hurricanes 24 – 12 Lions

Madeleine Chapman is a Spinoff staff writer who once nearly died when she spent a week as The Rock

Graeme Beasley

Being a Hurricanes fan tests the emotions, and it has tested those emotions for 21 years.

The theme has been 21 years of some of the most exciting rugby you will ever see, leading to inevitable failure. The Hurricanes have produced more than their fair share of memorable rugby yet that are the only New Zealand side not to win a Super Rugby trophy.

Last weekend’s length of the field chip-and-chase from Beauden Barrett which led to Halaholo’s try was yet another example of the positive side of supporting this team.

For the second successive year, Hurricanes fans find themselves in the unusual position of mentally preparing themselves for a final, and once more it’s being played at home. Once again we are asking ourselves, under our breath, if this is indeed Our Year.

It is at a time like this that we distract ourselves by remremembering the good and bad times. The formation of the competition coincided with the arrival of Christian Cullen on the scene, and how he lit up The Grand Old Lady of Athletic Park.

By the time the new millennium came along the Hurricanes had a shiny new stadium, season ticket sales of around 25,000, an electrifying Back Three of Cullen, Lomu and Umaga and the “Expect the Unexpected” catchphrase.

They made the semi-finals five times between 2003 and 2009. However, the big prize remained elusive; the title run typically ending when they came up against the Crusaders. In those years was the final of 2006 when they travelled to Christchurch for the final with confidence, only for the fog machine to get turned on an hour before kick-off. The Hurricanes were never going to beat the Crusaders in conditions like that.

The Social Experiment years were to follow when NZ Rugby though it was a good idea to put a Cantabrian in the charge of the Hurricanes. That was never going to work, but it probably improved the culture in the long term, and led to the golden year of 2015.

Sometimes in sport you get a situation where the pieces fall into place. A very good backline was enhanced by the return of Nonu, and the emergence of Milner-Skudder. Later in the year, all the tries in the World Cup Final were scored by players from the backline.

And the forward pack, often the weakness, had a decent smattering of players with All Black experience and, in Thrush and Broadhurst, real steel in the middle row.

The Class of 2015 was the real deal. They lead pool play from start to finish, and topped the final table by 13 points. The team was back, and so were the fans.

After all this time, we finally got a final in Wellington, and it could have sold out many times over. But the Highlanders had lifted their game throughout the knock-out games, and held their nerve better in the final. The abiding memory from that night was the sight of their players still out on the field an hour after the final whistle in front of what appeared to be half of Dunedin who had travelled for the match.

That was it. The core of that side headed off after the World Cup. The Hurricanes had their chance to win the thing, and they fell at the final hurdle. 2016 was about rebuilding.

February seems like a long time ago. They were driven into the Canberra dirt by the Brumbies in the opening round of the competition in one of the more embarrassing performances in the side’s history. Phil Kearns, of all people, suggested the players were fat.

The poor start to the campaign meant that the Hurricanes, unlike last season, were never front runners. They kept on winning matches they should have while the Chiefs, Crusaders and Highlanders exchanged bragging rights.

Then came that extraordinary 18 hour period in the middle of July. The Hurricanes entered that round needing a bonus point win in Christchurch to have any hope of a home play-off match; which they did. They then needed the Highlanders to beat the Chiefs but not by too many; which they did. They then needed the Juaguares to beat the Lions, who had obligingly sent a second-string team to Argentina. And sure enough, they came from behind to do that too.

Suddenly, in a dreamy scenario the Hurricanes had moved from seventh on an admittedly skewed table to top after the 18th round of competition. Suddenly, it was 2015 again; it was finals rugby in the Capital. Maybe this was Our Year after all.

So while, in theory, this Hurricanes side seems demonstrably weaker than the class of 2015, and only five players who were in last year’s final started in the semi-final. But names on paper can be deceiving; those players wearing shirts number between 6 and 10 are in the form of their lives, and that is a pretty handy part of your side to be firing.

The real strength this year has been in defence, and the counter-attacking opportunities that come from that. The narrative for the final is the best attack against the best defence, and you can’t argue with that.

There are a couple of Fun Facts as a backdrop to this encounter.

The Lions have never beaten the Hurricanes in New Zealand.

Only one side (Crusaders 2000) has travelled to another country to win the Super Rugby final.

Any Hurricanes fan will tell you that neither of those statistics inspires confidence; if anything they make the trepidation more real.

Hurricanes 25–24 Lions. After trailing 21-6 at halftime.

Graeme Beasley runs NZ’s best sport blog at Sportsfreak.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 03: Hurricanes mascot Captain Hurricane rior to the Hurricanes 2048 loss to the Crusaders in the Super12 rugby match at WestpacTrust Stadium, Wellington, Saturday. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

Dane Coles’ mentor and spiritual advisor, Captain Hurricane. Photo by Ross Land/Getty

Captain Hurricane

Well I’m pretty nervous. There is a lot of cloud around and my main concern would be whether I can get the Hurriplane into the city for match day. In 2006 it was a disaster. The fog rolled in and I couldn’t even land in Christchurch. Clearly the team were lost without me there on the sideline, but I’ve checked with Wellington Airport and the tower assures me I’ll be fine on Saturday and cleared for take-off and landing.

Of course my dream would be for Chris Boyd to ask me to suit up and play. I’ve been the captain of the team for a long time, but I accept I’ve got some work-ons and that Colesy has a slight edge on me when it comes to speed around the park and lineout throwing. I’ve been working really hard on my speed and hopefully that will help me get around as many fans as possible on match day.

I have no idea what the score might be, but hopefully more for us and less for them.

Captain Hurricane is the Hurricanes’ mascot

 

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