Sept. 20th – Finding the Mojo
Week 2 of the pool stages is fading into Rugby World Cup history. When I think back to the ancient history of 2 weeks ago when I was arriving in Auckland and reading pundits thoughts on why certain teams would win this greatest of all rugby tournaments, the constantly repeated criterion was how a team would hold together. After 2 weeks who has the mojo going? The All Blacks certainly seem unphased by fan and media complaints that Henry won’t settle on one team. Their early success and the general success of the tournament is building some powerful homefield advantage mojo. The Irish seem to have pulled a bag of golden mojo out the pot at the end of the rainbow a leprechaun hid away after they beat England in the 6 Nations climax. The Welsh have a solid coal miner type of mojo that is strong yet as fragile as an injury to tiny Shane Williams.
The Aussies pre-tournament Tri-Nations winning mojo has gone green. Star winger Ioane Digby is out until the quarterfinals at the earliest when the Aussies will probably have the priviledge of facing the Springboks to get to All Blacks in the semi-finals. No team has ever beaten 2 Tri-Nation sides to win the tournament much less just to get to the final. The Springboks mojo got tossed in a tornado. The relatively aged (experienced? – didn’t seem that way against Wales) side has yet to face a red hot extremely angry Samoan side who feel cheated by the IRB’s short rest schedule for tier 2 teams and a passion to show this is a truly great Samoan team – the first Samoan team to ever beat Australia. (They did this 2 monthes before the World Cup began.) As the Springboks look confidently to the knock-out stage, Samoa looks to crash right through this naïve confidence and put the Springboks on a plane back to South Africa before the quarterfinals start. The English are experienced at getting to the final. The Tindall sideshow could be the thing they need to pull themselves together and rally around a friend and captain who is under attack. For all the ‘2 yards in a cloud of heaving forward sweat’ boredom they bring to the game, they know what it takes to win. Can the French bring their A game to their probable quarterfinal match with England? It will never happen if it is a wet and cold night in Auckland.
Argentina and Scotland will match mojos on Sunday the 25th in Wellington. The winner gets the joy of a quarterfinal match-up with New Zealand. (And yes, I am saying if Scotland beats Argentina they will lose to England on the following weekend.) Just the thought of facing the All Blacks in Auckland in the quarterfinals of the World Cup they are hosting would be enough to unsettle my mojo, but that is what great mojo is all about – finding that right challenge that brings the right spirit to the right team to conquer the unconquerable.