OPINION: Even more startling than Andrew Hore's inexplicable brain fade in Cardiff on Sunday is the polarising reaction from the viewing masses who witnessed it.
Like some of the optically challenged rugby and cricket television match officials who occasionally struggle to accept what's staring them in the face, it appears that the countless replays of Hore's attack on Welsh lock Bradley Davies have still left the whole sordid incident open to conjecture.
In the extreme right camp are the rabid British press, who want to see Hore dragged through the streets of London, hung, drawn and quartered, and vilified as an example of what they see as the abhorrent physical excesses of All Blacks rugby.
Conversely, there are those on the extreme left who, while mercifully well short of nominating the All Blacks hooker for a Laureus sports award, still can't see any significant transgression on his part.
Davies is lucky he's not a fur seal - and yes, that tawdry episode in Hore's past has inevitably done the rounds - although his 2005 conviction for killing a protected New Zealand marine mammal hasn't appeared to imbue him with any unnatural sense of blood lust.
In fact, in his 70-odd test appearances, Hore has largely kept his nose clean and played with restraint - to the standards expected of the current All Blacks regime. Until now.
Hore's callous and obviously premeditated act defied belief, even taking Davies' alleged act of running interference into account.
That's merely straw grasping.
Hore clearly had the mens rea, as they say in legal circles, and taking all the available evidence into account, his actions appear indefensible.
More than anything, it was rank stupidity - and the timing couldn't have been worse.
Adam Thomson lowered the tone in Edinburgh and started the British press simmering.
Hore's plumbed new depths in Cardiff and Fleet Street is now in a feeding frenzy as the All Blacks prepare for their season-ending international against England at Twickenham. The Brits are also honing in on the All Blacks' team management's perceived indifference to Hore's stiff arm although, if social media is any indication, Steve Hansen and Ian Foster, and all those tainted by association, have their share of support.
The macho underbelly of traditional diehard rugby supporters is seemingly at play here.
Just as rugby league's hard men spat the dummy last week over the ARL's decision to ban the shoulder charge, there are those willing to forgive Hore his rather agrarian trespasses.
Coming at the end of a long and demanding international All Blacks season, Hore's actions have crudely diverted the focus.
He needs to pay some price and the All Blacks will now be hell bent on restoring their image with a clinical performance this weekend.
It's added pressure they can clearly do without.
- © Fairfax NZ News