OPINION: For a brief few minutes during the All Blacks versus Namibia Rugby World Cup pool match I lived in hope that we might witness something resembling a contest. 

Namibia looked pretty plucky for a team half made up of non-professional players, while the All Blacks looked a little scrappy. Namibia even put the first points on the board, held the lead for a full 185 seconds, and were still in touch at half time.

Finlay Macdonald reckons it would be good for the All Blacks to lose once in a while.

Alas, normal transmission was resumed and the yawn-inducing non-spectacle of yet another RWC mis-match played out its predictable course.

Sure, T J Perenara’s sweet try at the end was fun to watch – in the way a game of one-sided backyard bullrush is fun. As the coup de grace in a meaningful competition, not so much.

Here’s a confession, possibly an invitation to scorn and accusations of treachery, but I often relish watching the All Blacks lose.

Not that I expected to see them go down to Namibia, or be beaten in any of their pool matches for that matter, but I can’t think of anything more boring in sport (or life) than a foregone conclusion.

Unfortunately, this has become the natural order in rugby.

Every now and then, yes, another team manages to trick the fates and pull off a win against New Zealand.

And then God is put back in his heaven the very next weekend as the “wounded” ABs inevitably atone for the sin of losing.

There’s something wrong with any code dominated by a single team.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen delivered a halftime speech politely described as “direct” by veteran hooker Dane Coles in Tokyo.

It suggests a kind of disequilibrium, a slightly unhealthy lack of DNA in the gene pool. So it becomes less about who will win, but about by how much. When only a tiny handful of countries can truly call rugby its national game, how remarkable is it really when one of them wins rather a lot? 

For most of the rest of the world, with the possible exception of Wales and South Africa, rugby union is a minor code among many.

Hard to believe it right now, I know, but the RWC is not actually headline news for a lot of the planet.

Meanwhile, we endure a media diet of previews, post-mortems and PR about “the boys”, including hysterical headlines such as “the world cup losses that scarred a nation”. Give me strength.

This would all be a little less irksome if the All Blacks were one of many contenders for the big prize. Most of the big football nations go a bit crazy during a FIFA World Cup, too. But even in Brazil, Germany, Spain or any other soccer superpower, the uncertainty of outcomes is part of the fun. 

The pool stage, too, is a real competition, rather than what it’s become at the RWC – a largely academic exercise in sorting out the knockout phase draw featuring the usual suspects. At that point things do get a little more interesting, partly because of the slightly higher stakes involved in the All Blacks having an off day.

Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.
TJ Perenara leads the Haka during the New Zealand All Blacks v Namibia. Pool B match.

By far the commonest reaction to an upset is disbelief.

If the All Blacks mysteriously lose, either at a World Cup or in a normal test season, it’s because they “lacked urgency”, they “didn’t bring the passion”, they were somehow complacent, they were a bit jaded after a long tour or the ref was an idiot. Not often enough do we have to concede that another team was not only their equal but would be next week too.

Instead, we are expected to get our jollies by seeing if the All Blacks can put 100 points on some hapless sacrificial minnow, or utterly humiliate an Australia or England.

Nepo Laulala is yellow carded during the New Zealand All Blacks v Namibia. Pool B match.

But where’s the fun in that? Okay, sometimes that is fun. But if variety is the spice of life, surely it’s not too much to expect the same of sport.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching the All Blacks play a great game, it’s more that my instinctive love of the underdog increasingly involves cheering for the wrong side. Maybe that’s inevitable when virtually every other team is the underdog. 

It’s a subtle distinction, I agree, but wanting another team to win is not the same as actively willing the All Blacks to lose.

At least, that is my plea in mitigation, your honour – it’s about my desire to see the game flourish in the long term, to avoid the risk of other countries gradually turning off, or the code withering, because of the sheer monotony of perpetual All Black dominance.

Okay, probably no need to get too apocalyptic about it. All I’m asking for, really, is a little more doubt about the result, a little more reason to be nervous whenever the All Blacks take the field.

Give me that, and I’ll cheer them on every time. 

This content was originally published here.