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Defining a sense of national identity „„ By Gregor Paul FOR YEARS individual All Blacks have spoken about their pride in the jersey and been clear about what they were prepared to do to wear it. The stories of sacrifice are legendary, the commitment to the cause beyond question. Yet for all the emotion connected with the jersey and all the desire to wear it, there has been no unified sense of what it means and represents. Being an All Black has meant so many different things to so many people and while virtually everyone who has played for the national side has been aware of the significant history attached to the team, there hasn’t previously been a defined sense of national identity tied up in the team’s culture. This was the conclusion reached by former coach Graham Henry and his assistants Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen when they took over running the team. What drove that home was a difficult day New Zealand rugby endured at Ellis Park in 2004. Not only were the All Blacks well beaten by the Springboks, but they came away from Johan-

UNIFIED: The coaching panel led by Steve Hansen wanted to instil a unified understanding of what it meant to be an All Black. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

nesburg with a sense they were missing something. The Boks had lifted emotionally that day and the All Blacks coaches felt that had much to do with President Nelson Mandela being in the stands. The presence of Madiba had been a powerful, galvanising force, and seemingly the Boks and the 55,000 fans at Ellis Park, had a defined and clear sense of

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national identity. South Africans appeared to know who they were and what the Rainbow Nation was all about. The All Blacks coaching panel wanted something similar. They wanted to instil a unified understanding of what being an All Black meant and use that full weight of history and the legacy of the jersey to guide, inspire and bind.

That process began 13 years ago, but stepped up in early 2015 when Hansen decided that if his side were to win a consecutive World Cup, they would need a greater appreciation of themselves, who they were and what exactly they were representing. We really challenged ourselves prior to 2015 to identify who we were because we used to

talk about it all the time,” says Hansen. “So we asked the question what is it [our identity] – who are we? As a result of that we worked out that we weren’t really that sure. We spent a lot of time putting some stuff together and challenge ourselves to ask some questions. “And really you know it is our history and what that history has chucked that up over the years and who we want to be. “When you are asking to identity yourself as an All Black you have to go really specific because not every New Zealander is going to play for the All Blacks. So you are actually representing the people that have and all the people that are supporting you. “What it is we are identifying with has to come from our past and that includes good, bad and indifferent. It is so interwoven with being a New Zealander, you can’t really separate it. “You can then look at other great New Zealanders and even some poor ones and ask if we are going to be like that. It is an opportunity to enhance what has gone before us. I think we are very clear.” •Turn to page 22

The Star 16-11-17  
The Star 16-11-17  

The Star 16-11-17