Following the Springboks around France for the 2023 Rugby World Cup

Four years on from the inaugural BURTSandBORTZ adventure following the Springboks around Japan, we were back on tour for the Rugby World Cup 2023 though this time we were a lot closer to home in the UK with the World Cup taking place across the Channel in France.

I’ve said it before in many previous blogs that one of my earliest childhood memories is being woken by my dad at some ridiculous hour early on a Saturday morning to watch the Springboks play the All Blacks in New Zealand. It was a dream of mine for 25 years to follow the Boks in NZ and in 2011 that dream became a reality as Dyl and I spent the most epic of 2 months following the Boks whilst living out of the back of a painter’s van that we were borrowing from the legend John, who Dyl had met in India only a few weeks before arriving in New Zealand.

By the next World Cup, I was living in the UK and so the World Cup came to us and despite falling short against the AB’s in the semi-final, it was a wonderful few weeks following the boys around the UK. Four years later we headed East with the World Cup being hosted by Japan for the first time in its history and as noted above, this time the crew had grown with our debut BURTSandBORTZ rugby adventure.

In its infinite wisdom, World Rugby drew up the fixtures 3 years before the World Cup meaning a completely lopsided draw and South Africa in the pool of death with world #1 Ireland and world #5 Scotland.

The BURTSandBORTZ crew had grown from 16 in Japan to over 40 four years later and we kicked off our campaign against the Scots at the mighty impressive Stade Velodrome in Marseilles on a sweltering early September Sunday afternoon. The overall was definitely designed for winter in New Zealand and not the south of France in summer so it was rather warm!

The BURTSandBORTZ adventure kicked off on Friday evening as the hosts opened the tournament with an impressive win against the All Blacks. I flew in late Saturday night, arriving post a boat trip that saw many folks a tad worse for wear! After a cultural morning enjoying a walking tour, we headed to a pub on the harbour for a few beers and many renditions of Shosholoza. It was here we bumped into our 1995 World Cup winning captain Francois Pienaar and of course I had to tell him about the time he signed my jersey back in 1994!!

What a treat!

We loudly made way our way to the stadium and I had goosebumps as we watched the boys warm up ahead of kick off – here we were in Marseilles watching our World Champions begin their title defence. It’s a magnificent stadium and thankfully we had no issues getting in unlike supporters the previous evening who experienced long delays.

The B&B Marseilles Crew

It was a very tight first half with the Boks only leading by 3 at the break. In the second half we showed why we’re world champions scoring 2 quick tries to ensure the contest was all but over with 20 mins still to play.  One of these was a sublime inch-perfect no look kick from our flyhalf Manie Libbok which speedster Kurt-Lee Arendse caught to run in right in front of us. Our bench made a huge difference, especially in the front row, and we ran out 18-3 winners. The singing continued as we made our way to the fan zone on the beach to watch what turned out to be one of the games of the tournament as Wales edged Fiji in a thriller.

What a stadium!

The BURTSandBORTZ adventure continued to the Pyrenees for an awesome few days of hiking whilst I headed home before returning with the family the following Saturday. A group of us rented a wonderful big house on Lake Sanguinet, around an hour south of Bordeaux, and it was a magical week with family and friends as we enjoyed the on-site pool and keg, wandered to the lake for a swim, headed up Europe’s largest sand dune and enjoyed many a croissant.

Home for the week



On Sunday, myself, Rice and Pappa Rice jumped on the train and headed into Bordeaux to meet the BURTSandBORTZ crew for our 2nd game of the tournament against Romania. Festivities kicked off at a brilliant little rugby bar Sweeney Todds before we caught the tram to the stadium.

Kicking off festivities

There was a wonderful atmosphere outside the stadium with thousands of Bok fans enjoying many beers and much singing.

The B&B Bordeaux Crew

As expected it was a very one sided affair: Cobus Reinach had a hat-trick just after 20 minutes, Makazola Mapimpi added a hat-trick of his own and the 12 try Boks ran out 76-0 winners.

It had been too long since I’d seen this legend

After a wonderful week on Lake Sanguinet, Catherine (and the bump) and Romilly headed home while myself and a few others jumped on a train and headed into Bordeaux and north to Paris for our 3rd pool game against world #1 Ireland.  BURTSandBORTZ were also back on tour, and we kicked off the adventure weekend with a Bokke Booze Cruise through Old Paris. There were close to 50 folks on the boat including several Irish folks and a former Springbok in Thinus Delport!! I can’t say I”ve been on a Bokke Booze Cruise with a former Springbok before 🙂 

Thinus and I

The Irish ensured the boat playlist was well represented and it was an incredibly special few hours as the beers flowed and with everyone in fine voice. After the boat trip we headed to a micro-brewery for lunch and a few more beers before making our way to the stadium.

A few of the B&B Paris (Ireland) Crew

It was an insane atmosphere inside the Stade de France and definitely way louder than any game I’ve watched in Dublin with an estimated 30,000-60,000 Irish folks in the 80,000 seater stadium. It was a strange performance from the Boks and unlike our record-breaking win against the All Blacks at Twickenham a few weeks prior, despite picking a 7-1 bench we didn’t try maul too much and Ireland won a bruising campaign 13-8. We had lost the battle but the war would go on and I think whilst we were all disappointed, we knew we were still very much in this World Cup.

We had lost a game 4 years earlier in Japan and gone onto win and we all knew this was still very possible. It meant we would likely face hosts France in the QF but it was either them or the All Blacks so very much neither here nor there.

We wrapped up the epic weekend with a wander around Paris late Sunday morning and a divine cheese tasting experience with Fabrice and Le Cheese Geek. It has been an unforgettable few weeks following the boys around France with so many wonderful people but the special adventures were only beginning and we would be back on tour 3 weeks later to watch the boys take on France in a World Cup QF – more on that to follow though!

12 years on from the World Cup in India


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