All Blacks great Buck Shelford has underlined the contrast between the All Blacks and their fans in the wake of Sam Cane’s comments about ‘brutal’ supporters.
Cane has faced scrutiny for his comments that some fans criticising the team don’t know a lot about rugby.
Cane and his side have come under pressure after back-to-back losses following the shock 25-15 defeat to Argentina on Saturday.
Shelford, who led the All Blacks 31 times without losing, told the Mike Hosking Breakfast we can be cruel to our top sporting sides.
“I think they’re under pressure having lost two games in a row. I’ve heard a lot of comments from people saying they are useless and all this sort of stuff but it’s a lot harder than people think. It takes a long time to make it into the All Blacks and you’re the best of the best,” Shelford said.
“We’re so used to winning that when we do lose we get our heckles up and we get a bit annoyed with the boys. They will lose at times.
“I think he [Cane] is just being honest. And we can be quite cruel to our international stars, not just in rugby, but any of our sports stars,” he told Mike Hosking.
Shelford added that the rise of social media has increased the criticism and questions whether some of it is genuine.
“Now we’re living in this technology age, people are just punching out stuff all the time and sometimes do they really mean it? They don’t really think about it they just put it in then all of a sudden it’s gone… They’ve got to realise it takes a long time to get into the top, a lot of pain.
“They get brutally hammered every week especially when test matches come along. We don’t have to do that. We just have to sit in the stands, eat pies and chips and watch what they do. We complain if they lose and if they win we go and get absolutely pissed.”
Cane was quick to defend his team and head coach Ian Foster, and in an interview with Sky Sprot’s The Breakdown, describing the brutal nature of some of the All Blacks’ passionate supporters.
“We’ve got some amazing fans but we’ve also got some pretty brutal ones,” he said. “With that you’ve just got to remind yourself ‘hey, they may like to think they know a lot about the game of rugby, in reality they don’t really’. They may know the game from what they see in the 80 minutes, but they don’t see the stuff that goes on behind the scenes.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 17, 2020
The comments led to boundless backlash on social media from fans who indeed, believe they’re well-versed in the 15-man code.
One said on Twitter it’s “not a very wise thing to say coming from the captain. Most AB supporters know he ain’t captain material anyway”.
“A very arrogant view. I’ve barely missed an All Blacks Test on TV since 1987 and attend probably 10 live games a year. Kiwis know rugby,” another added.
A third said “I agree, not a wise comment as we the fans do understand rugby and so many of the fans actually play rugby too”.
The public expressed their concerns about the team on the Herald as well. Commenting on a story where Cane went on the defensive, one reader exclaimed “we can read body language though, and the majority of players are telling me both Cane and Foster hold little respect. When they both have to talk each other up we know there’s something not right in camp”.
“Cane rhymes with Taine [Randall]… and he lost 5 in a row…” another wrote.
One took aim at the team as a whole, saying “strategy issues identified by Cane (going wider), but selection is an issue too..1st 5 at fullback, fullback on wing, wing at centre, 6/7 at 8. Coach has to take responsibility for team selection”.
There were also those in Cane’s corner willingly caressing his shoulders. “Sam Cane is mostly right here. Many fans are just keyboard warriors with no professional experience in rugby or intimate knowledge of rugby rules. Elite players like Sam Cane don’t need the fans, fans need the elite players though,” one Twitter user said.
Saturday’s defeat in Western Sydney was riddled with unwanted feats being achieved. It was the first loss in 30 matches to the Pumas, the result handed the All Blacks their first back-to back defeats since 2011 (those two nine years ago were in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup), and gave Foster the worst winning rate of 40 per cent for a head coach through his first five games.
More importantly, it occurred two weeks after an historic 38-point victory over the Wallabies that locked away the Bledisloe Cup, and injected momentous positivity in the early work from Foster and those around him.
The All Blacks’ fourth and final game of the Tri Nations comes on November 28 against Argentina in Newcastle. If results go their way they can still claim the silverware, but it is likely the team will be more focused on a reactionary performance radiating with pride.
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