The Blues v Highlanders match at Eden Park on Friday night and the Crusaders v Sunwolves match at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday will both feature the traditional reading of The Ode (in Te Reo and English), playing of the Last Post, a moment’s silence, and The Reveille.
Commemoration activities will also include poppy collections for the RSA Poppy Appeal at the gate as fans arrive at both games with Aucklanders having the opportunity to text their donations from the game.
In Christchurch, the world’s only professional Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) player and composer ‘Kinohachi’ will perform before the start of tomorrow night’s match against the Sunwolves. The popular New Zealand Army Band will perform at half time.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen is one of seven RSA ambassadors this year, joining SAS hero Willie Apiata VC, soldier Lt Col Melanie Childs, former soldier and widow Tina Grant, award winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, mental health advocate and comedian Mike King, and Naval reservist and recording artist Rebecca Nelson.
In getting behind this year’s campaign, Hansen said: “Sometimes rugby gets compared to going into battle which I can understand but I realise there’s no comparison to what those who serve in our armed forces have to deal with. I can only imagine what the pressure of being in a hostile and life-threatening environment is like. I have nothing but respect for our men and women in uniform and that’s why I support the RSA and ask all Kiwis to show their support for our current and former service men and women through this year’s Poppy Appeal.”
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass said rugby has long held a strong connection with World War 1. When war broke out in 1914 the All Blacks squad was in Sydney playing Australia, and on the return trip all committed to volunteer in the war effort. In total 13 All Blacks and 150 First Class players paid the ultimate sacrifice in the war.
“New Zealanders have a proud record of service and we are proud to celebrate them and our veterans, as well as remembering the sacrifice many have made. This weekend’s matches will continue our tradition of honoring those heroes, and marking our respect," he said.
Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RNZRSA) Chief Executive Jack Steer said they welcomed rugby’s annual tribute and support for the RSA and veterans.
“We are grateful to New Zealand Rugby and the Super Rugby clubs for their efforts to promote remembrance around Anzac Day and in the practical way they are also supporting todays current veterans through collections at the games.
“Of New Zealand’s 41,000 veterans, only 11,000 of them are from World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. The other 30,000 have all served in operations abroad since the end of the Vietnam War in 1974. The Poppy Appeal is one way we can encourage all Kiwis to show they care by making a donation.”