Tue 19 Mar 2019 | 08:21

All Blacks rally in wake of New Zealand's darkest day

All Blacks rally in wake of New Zealand's darkest day
Tue 19 Mar 2019 | 08:21
All Blacks rally in wake of New Zealand's darkest day

REACTION: New Zealand’s leading players have rallied to ease the ‘heavy hearts’ of people, in the wake the terrorist attack last Friday.

The killing spree – was described by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as one of New Zealand’s ‘darkest days’ – left New Zealand and the world, in shock.

That night, the Super Rugby clash between the Hurricanes and Chiefs went ahead just hours after the attack.

After the game, scrumhalf Thomas Perenara explained the insignificance at that moment of the result which was a 23-all draw.

“Regardless of how that result went, that wouldn’t have been the most important part of my day and I don’t think anyone in this circle or in this country would say that this was the most important thing today, and that comes from a very competitive person who would do pretty much anything to win,” he told the media.

“My mind was on the game when I was in the game, but today was bigger than rugby.”

The players, like many people in the world, are still trying to process the events of last Friday.

More Hurricanes’ players opened up at training on Tuesday to reflect on playing the game, which Barrett described as a tough game to play with thoughts still on the people involved in the tragedy.

“It’s pretty tough to have to play a game after that,” he said.

“Our thoughts are still with those families. It’s just such a tragedy, but it is positive to see everyone come together to find solutions so that these things never happen again.”

The Hurricanes held an impromptu team meeting hours before the kickoff at their hotel once the game was decided to go ahead. Fullback Chase Tiatia said he thought it was to tell them the game had been called off.

“Personally, I thought the game was going to get cancelled.

“We had an urgent team meeting 10 minutes before the bus was going to leave – I thought that was it, they’re going to cancel the game.

“It affected a lot of the boys’ prep heading into the game. It’s hard to prep for a rugby game when that stuff is going on in New Zealand. It’s quite scary and it threw a few of the boys off.”

“We just talked about what’s gone on,” Tiatia said.

“There was a lot of things going around on social media, so it was just saying not to read it or have a look at it, because you can never unsee it. And then it was just what we were going to do by paying our respects pre-game.”

The two teams decided to form a joint huddle for the moment of silence in a sign of unity to pay their respects. Hurricanes coach John Plumtree didn’t think many people were thinking about the game, with rugby becoming insignificant.

“I don’t think there were too many people in New Zealand who were thinking too much about the Chiefs-Hurricanes game,” Plumtree explained.

“It was such a tragic event that sport becomes insignificant when something like that happens, but I suppose if you switch the TV on or you came to the ground, you might’ve been able to forget about it for 80 minutes.”

Saturday’s Crusaders-Highlanders game in Dunedin was called off after consultations with both teams, venue management, police and community organisations.

All Black midfielder Sonny Bill Williams has pledged to help with community fundraising efforts in Christchurch this Friday and will miss the Blues clash with the Highlanders in Auckland.

World Cup winner Julian Savea said Tuesday he was “heartbroken” over the New Zealand mosque shootings, as Williams took a week off Super Rugby to support people affected by the tragedy.

Williams, a devout Muslim, said his “heart is heavy” over Friday’s attack, which left 50 people dead, as he announced a trip to Christchurch to “show love” and give donations.

Hulking wing Savea has bagged 46 tries in 51 Test starts, but has struggled this season after moving to Toulon. However, he put his personal woes aside to pledge support to the Muslim community.

“I’ve been privileged enough to learn about Islam through my wife’s family, especially her grandparents,” the 28-year-old tweeted from France.

“They’ve been to Mecca twice, they pray five times a day, they encouraged me to fast during Ramadan and taught me what it means to be a Muslim,” Savea added.

“And I will make sure my children learn about Islam too because it’s a beautiful religion, and Muslims are the kindest people I have met.

“I am still so heartbroken over Friday’s events and I want the Muslim community to know that I stand with you all.”

All Blacks great Williams, who tweeted a video of himself in tears as news of the attack broke, has received the backing of his club Auckland Blues to travel south to Christchurch.

“Thank you everyone for your kind hearts,” Williams tweeted.

“We will be in Christchurch later in the week to show love and give donations to the Christchurch Masjids, for the people affected in this tragedy. My heart is heavy, please don’t stop showing your support.”

All Blacks and Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett said he was surprised Friday’s Super Rugby 23-23 draw against the Chiefs had not been cancelled, kicking off just hours after the Christchurch carnage.

“It’s pretty tough to have to play a game after that,” Barrett told stuff.co.nz after training on Tuesday.

Hurricanes fullback Chase Tiatia also said he thought the game would be postponed, as was Saturday’s match between the Highlanders and the Christchurch-based Crusaders.

“It’s hard to prep for a rugby game when that stuff is going on in New Zealand. It’s quite scary,” Tiatia said.

Players from both sides formed a circle in the centre of the pitch and linked arms as they observed a minute’s silence before the match.

Sources: RugbyPass & AFP

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