An Ode to the All Blacks

New Zealand players celebrate after winning the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium
New Zealand players celebrate after winning the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium, London, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. New Zealand won the match 34-17. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The 2015 Rugby World Cup which ended last Saturday was a joyous compendium of all that is the nature and character of an individual country, defined by the performance of its players and even by its national anthems. Argentina's weirdly martial anthem that is over before you know it, Australia's with advancing wagons and a no-nonsense, better-get-on-with-it mix of "Why Was She Born So Beautiful" and "We Plough the Fields and Scatter," Scotland's with its evocations of marching bagpipes and a hint of Presbyterian sobriety, France's as a nation of "Egalité" with overtones of the foreign legion, and England's charter of royal decree neutralising an empire by sheer solemnity.

But it is New Zealand's anthem of school-house hymn meets Maori that prepares us for that model mix of attributes; of settler and indigenous ethnicity. From within the haka's brimstone exhalations emerges an all-powerful battalion in black, the ultimate vanguard of a sporting army. No video game protagonists come close to these poetic towers and turrets of muscle in the flesh, with their dance of "greeting", quivering hands articulating the trembling air seen through a hot summer's day, and recalling -- from the ancient story it represents -- the belief of the spiritual power in women and food (does it get any better?). 

With the yin of action, power and strength and the yang of concentration, team work and perspective, they are like black arrows on a field of green piercing the heart of the opposition, pinpoint-precisioned by an inner stillness of focus. And their ferocious planning, discipline and execution sets the bar for the whole world.

Not only do they do sublime, they pummel at messy too, digging deep from an unrelenting sense of objective towards that holy grail of victory. They make the right decisions at the right time, they know that a good idea pushed to extremes will harm its initial purpose, and that when the momentum is against them they've been there before; even under duress and with seconds to react, they behave with an instinct that has become part of their DNA. And most importantly for many men out there, they peak when it matters. 

And in between sublime and messy, there is bristling; standing up to every encounter, relentless, bleeding, battered and without a whimper. No leaping into the air in absurd spasms of fake pain. They are quite simply, epic.

Those who are tall and strong have a low centre of gravity, tackling with impunity. Their speed in passing is bewildering, nanoseconds of movement between throws that span a foot or a hundred, in synch with the positioning of all their players at any given time.

If life is a game, then this is how to play it: offering and accepting flawless leadership, with determination, courage and commitment combined with a deep self-understanding and of others. On Saturday, they brought out the formidable best in their opposition, allowing them to hold their heads up high in defeat. Classy.

The brilliance and uniqueness of Richie McCaw or Dan Carter cannot be underestimated, but as indispensable as they have been, a true mark of their greatness is to endow the team with a both a legacy and a future of brilliance. So come on Mark Ronson, re-write your hit single and call it "Back to Back All Black" in honour of these extraordinary men of coolness.

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