Wellington - A rugby-mad sheep touted as the world's latest animal psychic picked the All Blacks to win their opening Rugby World Cup match on Friday, in New Zealand's answer to the late, great Paul the Octopus.
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The sheep, named "Sonny Wool" after All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams, chose to munch on hay under a New Zealand flag rather than another container with the flag of Tonga, delighting a small crowd of onlookers in suburban Wellington.
Sonny Wool, who was wearing a custom-made black jersey, hesitated slightly before going for the New Zealand hay, in a prediction that appears highly likely to be borne out in the opening World Cup match later on Friday.
"It sniffed around Tonga and then it walked to New Zealand, with a bit of coaxing from the crowd," an onlooker said. "It would have been in the oven if it chose Tonga, so it chose wisely," he joked.
Now Sonny Wool, who is three years old and was born in Dannevirke, will hope to follow in the multiple footsteps of the world-renowned Paul, who correctly tipped the result of eight matches at last year's football World Cup in South Africa.
Dan Boyd, Sonny Wool's "agent", said the sheep had demonstrated mystical qualities from a young age and enjoys chasing rugby balls in his pen.
"Sonny Wool could predict when it was going to rain, and tap on the door to get inside," Boyd said.
In the short time since Paul's emergence - and death last October - the world has seen a host of imitators, including an avowedly clairvoyant crocodile in Australia and China's Bo Si, the "psychic" panda.
However, Sonny Wool's first prediction has a strong chance of coming true with the All Blacks winning all three previous games against Tonga by an average of 74 points.
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