A photo of All Black impact weapon Sonny Bill Williams consoling his opposite number Jesse Kriel and helping him to his feet after the New Zealanders nail biting 20-18 win over the Springboks in the World Rugby Cup semi-final thriller at Twickenham last weekend went global, adding a poignant perspective to sporting rivalries. It was reminiscent of another Kiwi show of sportsmanship this year, also in a World Cup semi-final and also against South Africa. Black Caps all-rounder Grant Elliot, who hit the winning runs was photographed consolling the Proteas quick Dale Steyn after the epic match.
Sonny Bill told Jesse that he had nothing but respect for him and that he had played well throughout the tournament and will be around for many more.After the game he said that the result could have gone either way and that could have been us. Fellow AB Liam Neeson tweeted in admiration, “Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them.” It was not Sonny Bill’s only act of compassion. The first Muslim to play for the All Blacks offered his player tickets to Syrian refugees. While he may divide public opinion back in New Zealand, I’m sure all us kiwis both at home and abroad have nothing but admiration for him this week.
Not quite on the same humanitarian level, but equally appreciated by me was his signing and ‘best wishes’ dedication on this sketch, which AB manager Darren Shand organised for me. The original is drawn with my trusty 4B, which is a soft lead and prone to smudging. Sometimes when people are signing they indadvertedly do this, but generally leave it as part of the process. Sonny Bill’s right eye on the left image got the treatment, but who am i to argue with a champion boxer. I’m hoping the very hand used will produce a trademark offload against Austraila in this weekend’s Final and hold the Webb Ellis Cup as World Champions again. If not, I still have a great sporting trophy of my own.