One of my earliest childhood memories is waking up at 4.30am on a Saturday morning to watch the Springboks play the All Blacks in New Zealand. When I was five, it was my dad who would get me up, cook us breakfast and wake me up when I dozed off. As the years passed, roles changed and it was me setting the alarm, getting breakfast on the go and waking dad when he dozed off.
Over the years my dad and I have watched many, many rugby games together. I remember watching the Eastern Province Mighty Elephants play the All Blacks on one of Port Elizabeth’s coldest ever Tuesday nights, one of our many visits to the now derelict Boet Erasmus. When I was at university in Cape Town, my dad would travel up on the bus to watch the annual Test at Newlands and we’d stand for R80 ($6) behind the poles.
Having not watched live rugby together for many years, we were both incredibly excited to be heading to Bloemfontein. It was our first time watching rugby here and also our first time watching England in South Africa (I’ve been fortunate to see us play at Twickenham).
It was a fantastic road-trip from Port Elizabeth with wonderful driving through the striking landscape of the semi-desert Karoo. We spent Friday night at the Gariep Dam and were up with the sun the next morning to continue the journey. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the tiny town of Trompsburg and arrived in Bloem in time to find an Irish pub to watch Ireland take on Australia in Melbourne.
After seeing Ireland win, we made our way towards the ground. The final km or so leading to the stadium was lined with cars parked on the pavement playing music and lots of sizzling skottels (gas stoves) on the go. I felt amazing being back in the overall and as always it attracted many smiles and high-fives.
After our thrilling fight-back win the previous week in the first Test, it was an expectant crowd that had filled the Bloemfontein Stadium. Like the previous week, we went behind with England scoring two tries to lead 12-0. Those would be the last points they scored as we fought back wonderfully: first a penalty, then a barging run from the 22m from no 8 Duane Vermeulen for our first try and finally a 60m penalty on the stroke of half time. This saw us into the tunnel with a one point lead and we never looked like relinquishing that.
It was a fantastic second half performance and the best 40 minutes of rugby I’ve seen us play in ages. We played with pace, looked more committed and determined and we used our substitutes well. A change in the front brought a penalty try from a 5m scrum and we would go on to win 23 -12 to claim an unbelievable series win.
There’s something so special about watching the Springboks play in South Africa. To do so with your dad, and to watch us win the series, makes it even more so.