A childhood dream come true – watching the Springboks win the 2023 World Cup

After an unforgettable and uuuuunnnnbelievable  few weeks following the Springboks around France for the group stage matches of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, BURTSandBORTZ were back on tour for an epic quarter-final weekend of rugby. I hopped on an early Saturday morning Eurostar and could barely contain my nervous excitement meeting up with the adventure crew at our hostel –  we were in Paris to watch the Boks take on the hosts in a World Cup Quarter Final.

We made our way to a local Parisian bistro for a divine lunch before settling in at Belugi’s for the day’s rugby. The QF’s kicked off with Argentina coming from behind at half time to beat Wales before New Zealand of old defeated favourites and world #1 Ireland in what will go down as an all time classic.

There were a few sore heads come Sunday morning but those were cleared with a walk to the city’s oldest market for some lunch and a few beers. We then headed to the fan zone near the stadium to see England take on Fiji before strolling over for our QF.

On tour at a local Parisian market
Catching up with friends at the fan zone

The singing started as soon as we’d left the fan zone and would continue until the wee hours of the morning. We went through our usual repertoire multiple times and it was an unforgettable walk as we slowly made our way into the stadium. As you can imagine with the hosts playing, it was an unreal atmosphere and a packed Stade de France would witness one of the greatest games of all time.

All the onesies

We belted out Nkosi Sikelele iAfrika and were off! France came out all guns blazing and scored within 5 minutes, their prop diving over in the corner. It felt for a few minutes like we would be over-run but this Bok side refused to lie down and they countered with a try from Cheslin Kolbe who ran onto a perfectly weighted chip through from Jesse Kriel. France continued playing breathless rugby but the Boks stayed with them as a further 2 tries apiece were traded in the frenetic first half.

What a scene

On the stroke or half time one of our talisman Eben Etzebeth was yellow carded and France converted the resultant penalty to lead 22-19 at the break. It felt like the half had been played in fast forward and it was the best half of rugby I have seen live.

Thankfully the yellow remained just that and the Boks hung on while being a man down with no points conceded. France did extend their lead with another penalty and with 15 minutes to play we were 6 points behind. Etzebeth then made amends for his yellow card with an incredibly powerful try as he barged over from 10m out with half the French team on his back. Pollard converted from in front of the posts and the Boks led by a single point, 26-25.

Two further penalties were traded and with just under 10 minutes to play, the Boks led 29-28. Under immense pressure and with an unbelievably loud Stade de France willing their team on, the boys held firm and saw out the match.  BOKKE!!!

Bokke!!
What a game!

After much singing and dancing just outside the stadium, we headed to the closest bar to continue the celebrations. Once the bar closed we headed back towards our hostel in Gard du Nord and stumbled on a restaurant open at 3.30. We promptly ordered Steak Frites and red wine and little did we know that a new tradition had been born 🙂

What a way to end the night

After an epic win against the hosts, next up was England and a repeat of the 2019 final. We were firm favourites but you just knew it would be a close game and I was confident but nervous as I hopped on another Saturday morning Eurostar to meet up with Dyl, Zoneboy and Spiro.

Looking calmer than we felt

For only the second time in the Rassie and Jacques era, we named an unchanged 23. Many were surprised given the physical and emotional high of the previous weekend and it nearly backfired. It was a very wet late October  evening in Paris so you just knew it would be a hellava tight game.

Making friends ahead of kick off
Anthem time

England played the wet conditions better and we just couldn’t get a foot in the game. We were down by 6 points within 10 minutes and after trading penalties, England’s lead remained 6 points after 30 mins.

Mistakes littered our play and brave calls were required to turn things around. Pollard was brought on after only 30 mins, Faf came on very soon after the break and with 30 minutes to play all of Siya, Eben, Duane and Damian were on the bench.

Whilst always behind we stayed in it but with 15 minutes to play the lead had stretched to 9 points (15-6). Ox was giving us superiority at scrum time and when we won a penalty 40m out, Pollard found touch to set up a crucial line-out. Bongi found his jumper and from the ensuing maul, the Viking RG Snyman barged over to score the most important try of his career. Pollard added the extras and it was now a 1 score game.

The clock was ticking and with only 3 mins to play, we had a scrum 45m out. Ox and the front row delivered again, winning a penalty; Pollard stepped up and calmly slotted the 3 points to see us take a 1 point lead with 2 mins to play. This was the first time we’d led all game and we held on for the win. I think the biggest emotion at the full time whistle was just relief after one hellava game. BOKKE!!!
Bokke!!

We all felt physically drained and needed a few beers to restore some energy. We closed the bar again and then it was back to our local for steak frites and red wine to celebrate.

The Springboks were into their second consecutive Rugby World Cup Final and myself, Dyl and Zoneboy had seats together 🙂 We had bought these a few weeks prior, I think from memory even before our quarter final, and it felt surreal to know I would be watching the boys in a World Cup Final (assuming of course our expected arrival didn’t decide to come early!).
As I’ve said in many previous blogs, including the previous group stages blog, one of my earliest childhood memories is being woken by my dad at some ridiculous hour on a Saturday morning to watch the Springboks take on the All Blacks in New Zealand. I was only 6 when my love for this game and our Bokke began and it’s been a massive part of my life ever since.

I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to watch us many times around South Africa, to enjoy our end-of-year tours to the UK, Ireland, France and Italy and to follow the boys at every World Cup since 2011 (2011 – NZ, 2015 – UK, 2019 – Japan. I’ve been there for some of our lowest lows, think Brighton in 2015 or Florence in 2016, which made being in Paris even sweeter. I hopped on another Saturday morning Eurostar and was joined by VH who had brought essential supplies for the journey 🙂

Off to Paris with supplies

It was another wet day in Paris but that couldn’t dampen our mood one bit and it’s impossible to properly explain how excited I felt. We were in Paris to watch the Springboks play the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup Final. There were lots of folks in town, including friends from Australia and South Africa, and we met up at the fan zone to kick off festivities before another epic walk to the stadium.

Kicking things off at the fan zone
Memories to last a lifetime

It felt surreal to sing Nkosi Sikeleli iAfrika and after singing our anthem as loudly as we ever have, you could hear a pin drop as the All Blacks performed their Haka. There was time for a final rendition of Shololoza and the World Cup Final was underway.

Here we go…

The game itself felt like a blur but there are so many moments I can still see – Eben’s massive hit on Richie Mo’unga within the first 2 minutes, Bongi going off injured with Deon Fourie now having to play 77 minutes as hooker in a World Cup Final, Peter-Steph giving Jordie Barrett nightmares, Sam Cane’s red, Siya’s yellow, that Kurt-Lee cover tackle – it was unbelievably tense and tight as you would expect of a final.

What dreams are made of

We dominated the first half and took the lead through 2 penalties. New Zealand hit back with a penalty of their own and with 10 to play we led 6-3. The game turned when Sam Cane’s yellow for a head-on-head tackle of Jesse Kriel was upgraded to red and despite enjoying a 12-6 lead at the break, you just knew a 14 man All Black side would come out firing in the second half.

Well that’s exactly what happened. There was relentless All Black pressure with Siya’s yellow only adding to it and it felt at times the dam surely had to burst. The All Blacks finally did score but the try was disallowed. The pressure continued and a few minutes later Beauden Barrett went over in the corner for our first try conceded in 4 World Cup Finals. Mo’unga missed the tough sideline conversion and with 20 to play we led 12-11.

Soaking it all in

What a final quarter it was and even watching relays of the game some six months, I still get nervous thinking the All Blacks simply have to score. But they didn’t, despite us going a man down with Cheslin sin binned with seven minutes to play, and with time virtually up we had a scrum on our 22 right in front of us.

Our usually rock solid scrum actually went backwards but somehow Jasper Wiese collected at the base, made a few metres before everyone piled in. Time was up and hearing Wayne Barnes blow the final whistle set off mad scenes and much screaming … BOKKE!!!!!

Bokke!!
To watch us beat the All Blacks to win a World Cup is the stuff of dreams and a memory I will cherish forever. To watch it with your best friends is indescribable really and the fact we went Bok to Bok and won World Cup #4 is the icing on the cake.

It had been the most unforgettable 7 weeks travelling around France with so many amazing people and I’m just so incredibly grateful to have been able to follow our boys all the way to Paris and World Cup glory. Writing this some seven months since that magical night, I still get goosebumps thinking I was there and I cannot wait to share my love for the Springboks with Romy and Maggie.

BOKKE!!!!!

Damian you beauty

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