Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 15:42 GMT
'Black Monday' in New Zealand
The All Blacks' haka: no match for Gallic flair
New Zealand radio declared the first day of November "Black Monday" after the All Blacks' disastrous 43-31defeat at the hands of France in the Rugby World Cup.
Because of the time difference, the country had an entire day to digest their semi-final exit at Twickenham, which kicked off at 0400 local time on Monday (1500 GMT, Sunday).
Bleary-eyed fans, who got up early or stayed in bars through the night, demanded the sacking of coach John Hart and captain Taine Randell on radio phone-in programmes following the embarrassing defeat.
"It's stopped that feel-good factor they were trying to build up," said political commentator Barry Gustafson.
"The favourite doesn't always win," admitted the country's prime minister Jenny Shipley as she tried to explain a massive blow to the national psyche ahead of the 27 November poll.
A television network station called the defeat "Le Coq-up" while Wellington's Evening Post declared: "We are the chumpions."
In the largest city, Auckland, city council officers were forced to hurriedly dismantle plans for a NZ$20,000 (£6,500) victory parade.
The state is set to profit in one way, with the government-owned betting agency likely to have lost a six-figure sum if the All Blacks had won the World Cup.
But one Kiwi bookmaker was forced to pay out NZ$60,000 to one punter, who bravely bet the equivalent of £135 on a French 12-point win.
"All our profits were wiped out," said a spokesman for the TAB company.
"It's an absolute disaster," said one radio caller. "We were outplayed, outgunned and I think it is the end for John Hart."
Callers said Hart had refused to heed suggestions that Randell was not the right captain or No 8 forward after last year's five consecutive losses.
They said the August 28-7 defeat by Australia should have given the All Blacks enough warning.
"We go into mourning now for four years," former All Black Grant Fox admitted.
"Now there will be total devastation," warned former skipper Sean Fitzpatrick, words echoed from London by an apologetic Hart.
"Devastation for the team, devastation for the fans back home and the fans that were here.
"We feel as though we've let everyone down. What else can you say? I can only apologise for that."
With the country's cricketers having recently been thrashed in India, one newspaper, the Waikato Times, suggested that prime minister Shipley might now switch her election campaign to the next major sporting event in Auckland.
"We can't lose that until after the election," the paper said, referring to the international yacht race.
But that forthcoming event provides a reminder of the weekend's nightmare, with no fewer than three former French international rugby stars taking part.
"France are killing them. Normally the All Blacks are very organised but we managed to make them completely disorganised," said crew member and former rugby star Simon Linner.
Some 100 French people were at the yachting base to watch the game, although the widespread expectation of a defeat for France meant that many French supporters living in New Zealand did not bother to get up early.
Among those who did not make the effort was France's ambassador to New Zealand, Jacqy Musnier -- who learnt the outcome only when his brother-in-law called excitedly from Paris.
Meanwhile, Alain Wesmas of New Zealand's Alliance Francais cultural group admitted: "None of us had anything planned because we didn't expect them to win."