Opinion: ABs adopt amateur ethos
Tue, 25 Sep 2012 7:34a.m.
Opinion By Jim Kayes
It was a gym, of sorts, and certainly not one the All Blacks were used to.
With a combined salary of at least $5.6 million, these 28 players are used to the finer things in life. They travel business class, eat well, stay in five star hotels and (normally) work out at the best gyms filled with music, mirrors, machines and muscle.
Their Buenos Aires gym was packed with muscle when the All Blacks arrived but everything else was coated in dust. This was a gym from a bygone era, reflective of Argentina's still largely amateur rugby ethos.
There are only 12 professional players living in Argentina, everyone else plays for the love of the game. The gym at ‘Club Gimenasia y Esgrima’ is testament to that.
As the All Blacks trained a small group of boys wandered in kicking a football around oblivious in their soccer dominated world to the rugby super stars beside them.
To mark out the lunges and leaps the All Blacks were doing they shifted bits of strewn rubbish into place, an empty chip packet marking the start, a red soft drink lid the finish. They roared with laughter when a man wandered through later with a brush and shovel sweeping away their markers.
Two signs warned that rugby boots and smoking was forbidden, while old posters, the colours faded, showed someone had been a big fan of the 1988-1990 All Blacks and of Grant Fox.
Insulation poked through various holes in the ceiling and the walls, like the equipment, had seen better days. But no one complained.
A few of the younger players described the gym as ancient, but those with a few more candles that melt on their birthday cake smiled as they walked in. This was a sight they knew well, it was most rugby clubs back home.
And the All Blacks are masters at adapting to their environment.Their record on the road shows that. They haven't lost in England since 2002 and we're last beaten in France two years before that. They've won eight of their 14 games against the Wallabies in the last 10 years in Australia and are even with South Africa at six a piece for the last decade there. Compare that to how the Wallabies and Springboks fare in New Zealand. The Wallabies haven't beaten the All Blacks there since 2001, losing the last 14 games on the trot. The Springboks have done slightly better with two wins in the 13 games they've played against the All Blacks in New Zealand in the last 10 years.
Wales are the only other country that's beaten the All Blacks and that was in 1953.
Argentina, likes a few others, have managed a draw and they are tougher at home than away and have proven their worth in the Rugby Championship.
But little fazes the All Blacks.
They are looking forward to locking horns with the Pumas powerful pack. They won't be bothered by playing in front of a raucous crowd. As the players often say, a field is a field wherever it is. It's the same size and the same for both teams. They'll adapt and improvise, just as they did in the dilapidated gym.
And because of that, they'll probably win.
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