Leading into the Rugby World Cup semi-final between the All Blacks and Springboks, much of the narrative was about the rivalry between the two sides. The 'Boks are regarded as the biggest threat to the All Blacks' everlasting domination of world rugby and the majority of the epic rugby Tests that we can remember have come against South Africa; it's a great rivalry but it doesn't quite compare to the trans-Tasman rivalry that fills my loins with excitement and fear.
After beating South Africa, the All Blacks will now face Australia in the Rugby World Cup final, thus putting the trans-Tasman rivalry front and centre for the world to see. This isn't solely about rugby though as all the major codes that kiwis and Australians love, include some sort of rivalry between the two countries. Yesterday I watched a hard fought hockey Test between the Black Sticks and Kookaburras, while the BLACKCAPS are now in Australia preparing for the most exciting chapter of 'BLACKCAPS 2.0' and we have been treated to a Netball World Cup final between the two nations as well as regular rugby league Tests as well recently.
Basketball can't be forgotten with both the Tall Blacks and Boomers enjoying the benefits of the highest number of basketball exports that I can remember from either country. This raises the standard of the trans-Tasman clashes and with basketball clearly on the rise, I can only see these contests getting more frequent and entertaining.
All that is left is for more regular football games between the All Whites and Socceroos - surely we can conjure up some sort of sporting heaven where both the male and female teams from Aotearoa and Australia compete in a range of sports over a week or two. Surely, that can happen.
An alien, or a foreigner might not fully understand what makes this rivalry between Aotearoa and Australia what it is. I find our rivalry with Australia to be unique and it's always a clash, regardless of the sport that I want to watch. To understand the rivalry between our two countries, foreigners must understand the dislike/friendly hatred that kiwis have for Australians and they must also understand the perspective that Australia view Aotearoa through - the little country next door.
The mere fact that we as kiwis are competitive with Australia in any sport is amazing. This is obviously thanks to the large disparity in population size which then influences the amount and quality of resources available as there's simply more money in Australia. There's also the All Blacks factor where Aotearoa is all about the All Blacks, which can take away from a few other sports while Australia enjoy a more level playing field as there's more sports that receive greater publicity. The fact that rugby is probably the third or fourth most popular sport in Australia puts the Wallabies and the sporting ability of Australia into some context.
Both nations share a work ethic that isn't so evident around the world. A sports team in America or Europe know that they will get a hard working team player when they sign a Aussie or kiwi, that's a given. We don't produce too many divas or prima-donas, those types of athletes get cut down swiftly and if they aren't, then the public ridicule is slow and torturous - just ask Nick Kygrios.
That breeds a level of mutual respect between the two countries' sports teams as we are far closer than people think. I don't like Australian sports teams (how could I?) but I respect them immensely because the level of excellence in Australian sport isn't seen too often around the world. Yet here is Aotearoa, competing hard in all these sports which is a testament to the trans-Tasman rivalry as Australia generally set the bar and we rise to that bar.
A trans-Tasman rivalry though always has some ill-feeling. Again, this is what makes it so awesome because the ANZAC values are on full display here. Sporting fixtures between the two nations can be brutal and nasty but there's always a brew to be had afterwards as this aspect of sport is as much a common factor as competing hard.
Any opportunity to witness an Australian sports team against a kiwi sports team must be taken. We are in rather astonishing times where most of the sports that we compete in, have a sense of parity with teams like the Kiwis and BLACKCAPS closing the gap between them and their Australian counterparts (the Kiwis have overtaken the Kangaroos). Up until recent times, it has only really been the All Blacks who have had the wood over their Aussie opponents so it's great to see our little country enjoying one of our strongest sporting eras.
One of our strongest sporting eras, which coincides or has influenced the number of fixtures between the two countries. The biggest rugby game of the last four years will be between the All Blacks and Wallabies, our two countries will play out the best advertisement for rugby, which raises to little thoughts: we both dominate sports which aren't as popular around the world as other sports and it's up to us to help grow the profile of these sports, as well as both countries playing sport in a way that serves as a great advertisement for sport. Rarely will you see a boring game between Australia and Aotearoa, you'll see a great balance of points and niggle with whatever sport it is, being played how it should be to varying degrees.
As a kiwi, I'm not shocked or surprised when an Australian pushes the boundaries on a sports field and offers to break their opponents arm for example. That's nothing new to us kiwis, just like Australians being really good at sport isn't anything new to us kiwis as we have experienced their wrath time and time again. I don't know how the upcoming week will pan out in both the rugby and cricket, it will certainly form yet another chapter in a sporting rivalry that I'm stoked to experience on a regular basis.