How Mahela became an All Blacks fan
September 6, 2017 02:05 pm
He is regarded as one of the modern greats of international cricket, but did you know that Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene is also an All Blacks fan?
Unless you follow Mahela on Twitter, chances are you don’t know about his All Blacks obsession or that rugby is an established and fast growing sport in Sri Lanka.
In an interview with allblacks.com via Skype, the former Cricket captain chatted about rugby’s place in Sri Lanka, the influence of the All Blacks and more.
What kind of following does rugby have in Sri Lanka?
It might surprise some people to learn that Sri Lanka is actually a big rugby-playing nation. Our schools rugby has a big following here. Some schools games will have a few thousand people watching. I went to a rugby-playing school so I grew up on rugby. Our club rugby has a big following too and we have players from Fiji, Samoa, England and other countries come here and play in our competitions.
How did you become a fan of the All Blacks?
I have supported the All Blacks since the era of Jonah Lomu, Glen Osborne, Christian Cullen and Jeff Wilson – all exciting players to watch. Most of the Sri Lankan cricketers do follow rugby. Last summer when I was playing in Australia, I watched a couple of the Crusaders games as Super Rugby had just started. I support the Crusaders in Super Rugby.
So if you play cricket in summer, is rugby your national winter sport?
Unfortunately we don’t have a winter - we are hot all year round! The rugby season happens during the rainy part of the year and goes for about four months. Our players are very competitive and skilful – particularly in sevens where we compete well in the Asian region. It’s tough for us to compete in fifteens but we are getting better.
We have heard that some teams in Sri Lanka even perform the haka?
Yes, we have some coaches from New Zealand that teach our teams the haka. They instil some of the values and pride that we see with the All Blacks in our players.
Can you see Sri Lanka competing on the international rugby stage?
I think we have made steady progress. The biggest barrier to success in fifteens is that our boys haven’t been big enough. Yes we have the skill and speed but we have lacked the size and power up front. We have some great talent coming through and a few years down the line we could crack the world’s top twenty and hopefully qualify for a Rugby World Cup.