New Zealand’s Sam Whitelock and team mates bow to the crowd after the match. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden
YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – New Zealand’s victorious players made sure to take a Japanese-style bow to every corner of the International Stadium in Yokohama on Saturday “to show a bit of love back” to the sea of local fans who came dressed in All Black.
The world champions lined up in front of each stand in the cauldron-like ground and bowed in unison after they beat South Africa 23-13 in their opening game of the first World Cup to be held in Asia.
With the trains to Yokohama packed with as many Japanese fans in the famous black shirt as Kiwis, and locals queuing as far as the eye could see to get their hands on more merchandise at the stadium, captain Kieran Read said it was an important gesture to make.
“It’s really important for us to connect as much as we can with the Japanese people, we know that they love us as All Blacks but we need to show a bit of love back to them,” Read told a news conference.
“The support’s been fantastic so far, we saw that tonight, there was plenty of fans with the black jerseys, which is fantastic. We want to enjoy this tournament, get out and see as many people as we can and, hopefully, get some new fans.”
Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Ed Osmond