1) The haka - well, this hasn't changed. I have always been a fan of the All Blacks' spine-tingling rendition of the Maori war dance at the start of their games. For a brilliant example of this check out this youtube video of it. (Highly recommended.) Much better, if I may say so, than the Aussie Waltzing Matilda which is all they could come up with in response.
2) The national anthems, sung at the beginning of each game. This is not a new tradition either but this world cup they decided to microphone the players as they stand in a line, arms around shoulders. It's great because rugby players are not renowned for their musical skills in general, and so you can giggle away whenever they hit the wrong notes at the top of their voices (which is frequently). South Africans - worst singers yet.
3) Watching Dan Carter play. This young man is from my town, does underwear modelling in his spare time, and also happens to be the best first five-eighths in the world. If you want to see another example of All Black hotness, google Joe Rokocoko.
4) Suspense non-stop for eighty minutes. Granted, this isn't always the case, such as in the New Zealand/Portugal game we watched at the pub which the All Blacks won about 100-3. But I just watched an Australia/England game which was only ever about two points apart, and I had a bet of 50 cents riding on England winning (against my brother-in-law) - phew! That was an exciting game! And I am now 50 cents richer!
4) Cool ads. This is categorically not the case on Australian television, but I have been sent some fantastic ones over the internet that are currently airing in NZ, such as this gingerbread man haka - yes, it has to be seen to be believed.
5) Watching Australia's Wallabies being beaten by England at quarter finals. This may seem poor-spirited and nasty, but I just really don't want Australia to win while I am living here. Australians are completely insufferable gloaters if they win anything, and if they lose, it is like it never happened. I can't wait to see if they even mention on the news tomorrow that they lost.
6) Crowd singing. For the English, it's Swing Low Sweet Chariot (if you can, listen to the Ladysmith Black Mamboza version which has the crowd actually roaring in the background). For the Welsh, it's Bread of Heaven. And I suppose (grudgingly) for the Australians it's Waltzing Matilda. There's something pretty special about a whole stadium of people singing while some men run around with a ball on a field.
7) Actually starting to figure out how rugby works. Watching closely enough to see why a penalty is awarded. Trying (unsuccessfully so far) to understand what a scrum is and why on earth it is needed. Etc. Suddenly rugby is beginning to make sense, and I've realised that it's not just a whole lot of brawny brainless men scampering around in cute black outfits; they've actually got lightning quick wits and strategy and reactions.
8) Australian commentators annoying the heck out of me. Their latest remark was a snide little comment on how a lot of New Zealand's players are of Pacific Island descent and how the rugby community should support smaller Pacific Island teams like Fiji and Tonga instead of letting the Kiwis take all their best players. Conveniently forgetting, of course, that a significant number of their players were born elsewhere, and that teams like Samoa have EIGHT players who were born in New Zealand! Anyway, before I am run away with by my feelings (spot the Mr Collins quote), these regular little bitter comments make me even more passionately an All Black supporter and a Wallabies detractor.
9) Watching the All Blacks lose by two points to France at Cardiff and thus being knocked out of the Cup was NOT a highlight. But watching another totally suspense-filled game makes it less humiliating that somehow the best rugby team in the world has yet again not won the World Cup (last time was 1987). Also, watching the French respond with Attitude to the haka this time round was pretty cool (see the video link on this page, "confront the All Blacks' haka", halfway down). Another comforting thought is that the next World Cup, in 2011, will be in New Zealand, and then we can really kick ass on home turf.
I really doubt that I'll get any comments on this post as my regular commenters have probably never even heard of rugby. So if you are Kiwi, sad, and lurking, please delurk, as the trend has been on blogs this week.