The 2011 Rugby World Cup winning All Blacks squad performed a dramatic and emotional haka on the steps of New Zealand parliament yesterday.
It was a scene that could effectively herald the end of the All Blacks time together, as they head their separate ways for some well deserved rest and recovery, with some players having suited up for 12 tests in the last 14 weeks.
Others, potentially captain Richie McCaw, will retreat to recover from injuries as one of the tougher seasons – especially mentally – draws to a close.
The All Blacks will rejoin their Investec Super Rugby franchises at the end of January.
A World Cup year presents the longest uninterrupted break for the Southern Hemisphere powers, with no end-of-year tours planned, with the exception of the Wallabies two-match series against Wales and the Barbarians.
Another six-figure crowd turned out in a major New Zealand centre yesterday, with an estimated 100,000 plus packing the streets of Wellington to celebrate their World Champion All Blacks.
There were also official ceremonies as Prime Minister John Key thanked the All Blacks.
“What we absolutely needed at the end of 2011 was you boys to bring home the Cup, we're so proud of you,” he said.
McCaw said that it had been a wild ride, and he was looking forward to the benefits that come with being the Webb Ellis holders until the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
“On behalf of the team, it's been a hell of a six weeks and we can say we're world champions now for four years, so we're going to enjoy it,” he said.
The All Blacks then responded with a stirring rendition of Ka Mate.
A quiet dinner was held in Wellington last night for the All Blacks.
Flanker Jerome Kaino told the NZ Herald that despite the team breaking up for now, there was a special feeling amongst the players, with the blindside likening it to what happened with the 1987 All Blacks World Cup winners.
“But you just look at the 87 team, they're still living with their accomplishment,” Kaino said.
“I'll carry this for the rest of my life.”