On this day of the 100th test played between the two greatest rivals in the history of rugby – the All Blacks vs. the Springboks, which is to be broadcast around the world to millions of viewers.
The world itself, is going through its own test.
90% vaccination coverage is the level the scientific and medical experts tell us a nation must reach before it is able to safely lift covid restrictions on its population.
To reach the 90% vaccination target, every group and organisation in society needs to get behind the vaccination message,
Churches, unions, political parties, sports clubs
Which leads me to the All Blacks.
The All Vax vs South Africa?
According to New Zealand Rugby Chief, Mark Robinson, the All Black’s major sponsor; AIG, “have been a leading voice on sociall issues that are dear to NZR and to our athletes”.
The government could recruit New Zealand Rugby, and their outgoing sponsor AIG, to the vaccination cause.
Before you say that this idea is too far fetched:
The major sponsor of the Fijian Rugby team Fiji Airways gave up their branding on the Fiji team jersy for a Vaccinate Fiji message.
Unfortunately this public health measure was torpedoed at the last minute by anti-vaccination sentiment amongst the Fiji team.
Fiji’s rugby team abandoned a plan to wear jerseys supporting Covid vaccinations when playing against the All Blacks on Saturday, amid opposition from players.
They were supposed to wear shirts bearing the message “Vaccinate Fiji”, but ultimately took to the field without them.
The Pacific Island nation is in the midst of a Covid-19 crisiswith cases rising sharply, but the pro-vaccination message was dumped at the last minute due to resistance from some team members.
The idea for the jersey reportedly came from one of the team’s main sponsors, Fiji Airways.
A spokesman for the airline said the company was disappointed with the team’s decision.
“We had given up our [advertising] space [on the jersey] to push an important, life-saving message to support the efforts of Fijian front-liners battling the current Covid outbreak.
Unlike the Fiji rugby team, every one of the All Blacks are fully vaccinated, and also fully behind the vaccination message. The chance for them to do something truely significant for the world wide vaccination campaign would be something they would probably leap at like they were in a line out.
AiG sponsorship of the All Blacks is due to finish at the end of this year, the Government need to talk to NZR and AIG about giving further support to the campaign to encourage vaccination on the world stage.
Not only would this be a leading voice on an important social issue, it probably wouldn’t do AIG’s brand image any harm either.
Not only would this be great for New Zealand’s vaccination campaign South Africa too has it’s own vaccine hesitancy problems.
To spearhead the campaign, the National Team ‘All Blacks’, be renamed ‘All Vax’, for one game.
The next clash between the All Blacks and the Springboks, is to be held at the Cbus Super Stadium, on the Gold Coast 2 October 2021
Imagine the roar from the crowd when the All Blacks stride onto the field with the AIG Logo replaced with “The All Vax”
Not only will they be held up as sporting heroes, they will be held up as world heroes on the right side of history.
Pat O’Dea is a unionist and human rights activist.