Following the Springboks on their 2021 end of year tour to the Millennium Stadium, Murrayfield and Twickenham

For those of us South Africans who live in the UK, November is a wonderfully special month of live rugby as we follow our Springboks around the country, and occasionally the continent. On their annual end of year tour, the Boks play three or four Tests against a combination of the four home unions – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales – and Italy and France.

The Boks newest supporter 😀

After a Covid enforced hiatus in 2020, we were back on tour as we followed the boys to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Murrayfield in Edinburgh and Twickenham in West London. I had last watched the Boks live at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, the inaugural BURTSandBORTZ adventure, and given it had been 2 years, I even decided to wash the overall!

Boks vs. Wales – 6 November 2021

First up we were on the train to Cardiff, an easy two hour journey from London Paddington. Watching rugby in Cardiff is unique in that the stadium is slap bang in the middle of the city, which makes for a wonderful atmosphere.

While we had beaten the Welsh when it really mattered at the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC) Quarter Final (QF) and 2019 RWC Semi Final, we had played four and lost four at the Millennium Stadium since our last win 8 years ago in 2013, which coincidentally was my debut in Wales! We play a similar style of rugby and thus it’s always an arm wrestle. Throw in some wet Welsh weather and you have a tight game dominated by the boot.

It was a fairly early start as we gathered at Paddington just after 9 am. We had surprised Storrar for his 40th and it was wonderful catching up with friends who I’ve known for 20 years but don’t get to spend much time with these days.

Cracking day with old friends

A late 5pm kick off meant a good few beers had been enjoyed at a number of bars and some of the game is rather hazy!  Wales led on a number of occasions in the first half with Dan Biggar and Handré Pollard trading penalties (Frans Steyn also got in on the act with a trademark long-range effort).

With 10 minutes to go, the hosts led 18-15 but the Boks would capitalise on their rolling maul dominance with a penalty kick to touch resulting in a try from hooker Malcolm Marx. A penalty from replacement Elton Jantjies on the stroke of full time would extend the winning margin to 8.

The beers continued after the game and we enjoyed a late steak dinner before catching our taxis to Newport for a wonderful nights rest. The following morning we were on the first train home with coffees replacing beers for the journey.

Boks vs. Scotland – 13 November 2021

The following weekend was an even earlier start given the 1pm kick off and we met just after 6am at Kings Cross for the five hour journey north.  Scotland were a vastly improved side and they had enjoyed a very good 6 Nations. They are generally stronger at Murrayfield though this year (last year now as I write this) it was more their away form with historic wins against England at Twickenham, their first since 1983, and France in Paris, their first since 1999. There were also eight Scots in the Lions party, the highest number since the 1993 tour to New Zealand.

I’ve said it many times before on this blog that Murrayfield is one of my favourite places to watch rugby. It’s an old stadium steeped in history and tradition and the Scottish anthem always gives me goosebumps. I find myself having to stop myself joining in. We actually lost my first game at Murrayfield back in 2010 but since then I’ve been fortunate to watch a number of victories and it’s a place I love going to.

It’s not often Rob and I watch rugby together – what a treat

It was brilliant to meet up with an ex colleague Ruari before kick-off and he had secured us amazing seats on the 22m line just a few rows from the front. We’re usually behind the poles and way up in the sky so this was something special. It was expected to be a close affair and at half time the Scots led 10 – 8. The Boks came out firing in the second half and dominated all aspects of the game to win 30 – 15. In the end, it was certainly a more comfortable victory than our last in 2018. 

How are these seats??!!

The much anticipated Ireland vs. All Black game kicked off straight afterwards and like in 2018 we would watch a famous Irish win on the big screens set up on the practice fields next to the stadium. It was just as cold as 2018 and Ireland were just as good, if not better.

Wonderful day in Edinburgh with this crew

Boks vs. England – 20 November 2021

Our final game of the tour against England at Twickenham was billed as a repeat of the World Cup final and the atmosphere was electric. Having being starved of live rugby for so long, to be in a full stadium that was absolutely heaving was unbelievable.

The day began with a wonderful breakfast braai and a few beers at VH. There were 8 of us and lots of meat! After breakfast, we walked to the stadium, which was a treat.

It’s always so special watching rugby with these boys

It was a brilliant game of rugby. England stormed out the gate and powered ahead with 2 tries. The Boks stayed in the game brilliantly with Handre Pollard kicking 4 penalties and would have taken only being 5 points down at the break.  The teams traded tries in the second half, and with less than 10 minutes left, the Boks took the lead following a Morne Steyn penalty. Unfortunately the Boks couldn’t hold on and a Marcus Smith penalty in the 80th minute gave England a 1 point win.

It was a bitterly disappointing end to a cracking game and the beers definitely taste quite as good that evening.

Nevertheless, it had been a wonderfully fun 3 weeks following the Boks with special friends.

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