It was my first foray to an international, to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to a Rugby World Cup game and to wear a South African shirt!
Don’t ask! I got slaughtered by my fellow Englishmen and women about the shirt.
However, when you’re offered the chance of a free ticket to a World Cup match, do you turn it down because you’re asked to wear a Springboks shirt by your gorgeous South African friend?
To counteract the fact I felt slightly like I was betraying my country – I say slightly since we were knocked out of the tournament too early (!) and I felt like I had to adopt another team and why not South Africa?! – I did buy and needed to buy an English rose beanie so at least I was representing my country.
To add more to the argument as to why I wore the shirt, I’ve been to Cape Town and surrounding area so I’m no stranger to the country or culture, plus I speak fluent Afrikaans (she says tongue in cheek) – “ach shame!”, “hectic”, “bokke”.
I was incredibly excited to go and felt so privileged to be asked.
We arrived at the Park early and did what every rugby fan does and got ourselves a pint. The queues outside the park were too deep so we went inside and had pretty much the whole place to ourselves!
A couple of pints in we made our way to our seats which were bang smack in the middle. Such a terrific view! There was a sea of green and yellow jerseys as far as you could see and only a sparse smattering of blue, red and white ones.
In our section of the stand, there must have been only five Americans, one of which was on his own at the end of the row.
Kick off was at 4.45pm and conditions were English classic – rainy, windy and chilly.
The players came out and the entire stadium erupted! It was thrilling!
When the anthems started, it was interesting to note that the South African supporters were unconfident with the verses. I didn’t really understand why they weren’t all bellowing like we do but as the music changed, they sang with all their might.
I questioned my friend and the first part of the anthem are the official words since Apartheid ended so anyone over the age of 40 wouldn’t have learned them at school – no wonder they were fudging their way through.
Patriotism was hugely apparent when the USA’s Star-Spangled Banner started playing. Considering the Amercians were probably outstripped 5 to 1, they roared their anthem and almost outshone the Saffas!
I loved being amongst the Saffas.
I was slightly let down by the lady next to me who was English and blatantly wasn’t interested in the game as she spent her entire time on her mobile, texting. Why go to a rugby match if you’re not interested? Especially when there are other people that would’ve been hankering for the ticket. Anyway, once I got over myself for being annoyed with her, I got stuck into the match.
“Bokke, Bokke, Bokke!”
The Springboks annihilated the Eagles.
I was surprised that the USA didn’t play better. I’d seen Canada play earlier on in the tournament and they were pretty good and I automatically presumed that America would be better – probably because they blow their own trumpet all the time.
(I know that’s judgemental of me and rugby isn’t a judgemental sport, so I should focus on the fact that they were playing one of the top teams in the world and it would be a struggle for them – duly told off!)
Towards the end of the match, all supporters, no matter whether they were South African, American, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh etc, were all routing for the Eagles. Taufetee managed to get the ball and run with it and we were all chanting “USA, USA, USA”. Sadly one of the Springboks tackled him to groans from the crowd saying “couldn’t you just let him have it?!”
Maybe its my unsportiness but what difference would it have made to let him have the try? It would give the Eagles some dignity perhaps? Give them confidence perhaps? Or would it have been shameful for both teams if the Springboks had done that? Being competitive and world class I guess means doing your absolute very best without taking any prisoners. It’s a war out there!
With the final whistle blowing, South Africa had beaten USA 64 – 0 and Bryan Habana had equalled Jonah Lomu’s record of being the top try scorer in a rugby world cup. He was amazing to watch!
Sadly the match was over and we had to leave the stadium. What a great venue! And there to greet us when we left was the UK’s tallest sculpture all lit up – the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Superb!!