When the Springbok end-of-year tour schedule was released a few months ago, we were surprised and a little aggrieved to be honest. Firstly, outside of world cups, matches are always on a Saturday so we weren’t sure why this was different. And secondly, steep Sunday night train and flight prices made an overnight bus our only option to get back to London, which, while no big deal, doesn’t make for a fun Monday!
Then we thought about things for a while and realised this wasn’t so bad after all since it allowed us an extra day to see Scotland. Given that we were flying into Glasgow (that being the cheapest way to get to Scotland), options included wandering around town, tastings at a whiskey distillery or visiting Stirling Castle.
We opted for some culture and spent a fascinating few hours exploring over 800 years of Scottish history. I had no idea of the history connected to the castle and while certainly not cheap at £14, I think it’s definitely worth it given this rich history. Free tours run every hour and there’s also an audio guide one can rent for £3. Given that we went over lunch, there was no tour running and so we decided to buy the audio guide, which was well worth it. It’s both informative and entertaining, and thankfully not overly long, and I learnt amongst other things that until the 1890s, the castle was a key fortification as it guarded the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth which linked the north and south of the country. Also, the well-known Mary Queen of Scots was crowned at the castle in 1542.
After the castle, we enjoyed a few beers in a local pub watching the absorbing England vs. All Blacks test before making our way to Edinburgh where we were staying with friends (Spiro and Nat). Edinburgh has a vibrant night-life with many awesome bars and the size of the city makes it easy to get around and have drinks in a few. And, as always, it was a fun night out!
Sunday was game day and we awoke to clear skies and sunshine. Breakfast was shortly on the go and as the sausages sizzled and the eggs fried, the sounds of Johnny Clegg filled the house and excitement grew. After a delicious fry-up, Spiro and I climbed into our onesies, Nat; Spiro’s Aussie girlfriend, graciously donned a Bok jersey while Dyl put on every piece of Bok paraphernalia he owned and we started the hour’s walk towards Murrayfield.
Although the atmosphere walking to the ground felt slightly more subdued, perhaps because it was a Sunday, the atmosphere inside was still amazing and just like my previous two visits to Murrayfield, the hairs on the back of my neck were definitely standing as the awe-inspiring O’ Flower of Scotland rang out across the stadium. A full band plays the first stanza before the crowd takes over with the second stanza and I hope the below does it just a tiny bit of justice:
Conditions were difficult as clouds and rain, which had steadily crept in throughout the afternoon,, made it heavy under foot. Willie le Roux had his best game in a #15 Bok jersey, Bakkies Botha, who last played at the world cup in NZ, helped ensure dominance at the lineouts while #8 Dwayne Vermeulen was generally immense.
At one point, with the Boks only five metres from the Scottish try-line, two bagpipers in our section started playing and within moments O’ Flower of Scotland was once more ringing through my ears. Almost on cue, the Scots managed to get their hands on the ball and the crowd went crazy.
The roar continued as Scotland broke but a few passages later an intercept try brought about a deafening silence. From the kick-off we scored again to effectively seal the win and although the Scots kept fighting, the Boks defended superbly to deny the hosts any points. A fourth and final try would make it 28-0 and cap a pleasing win for coach Heyneke Meyer.
And what better way to end off a fantastic weekend of culture and rugby than with a haggis burrito before we boarded our bus back to London.