Posted by: englishdubai | June 8, 2007


International rugby weekends hold a special attraction for me. It is one of the few things I have missed over the last 12 months since having moved to Dubai. Basically the regime is a week long and includes:

1. Reading the internet news feeds on both teams preparation’s
2. Watching the pundits on the TV review the teams chances
3. Talking to my colleagues about how the match will go

And on the morning of the game:

1. Enjoying the broadsheet analysis of the match
2. Typically whilst enjoying a “Full English Breakfast” essential in preparing for the drinking marathon ahead
3. Donning the team colours and meeting up with old friends to enjoy a couple of pre-match refreshments

The walk into the ground is great – with a noticeable palpation of excitement from the crowd, then the first glimpse of the lush green field when you first take your seat. The anticipation as the teams run out and the anthems sung. This for me is always the best part – the build up. The excitement. The crowd. The noise. The smells. The atmosphere. The match in some ways is incidental to a fantastic day out with your friends.

Last weekend I was able to experience this exact thing – only this time I was at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa. I was in the fortunate position of being invited to a business partners box for the second test match between South Africa and England.

The match was a foregone conclusion. Though England put up a strong defence for the first fifty minutes holding them 22-22 and even going into half-time with a slight lead. This had the huge partisan crowd slightly on edge

The wheels on the chariot soon came off 30 minutes later – as I witnessed an unanswered try deluge from South Africa. To leave the hapless England team fatigued, bruised and defeated by an impressive 33 points:

Results aside – England have a lot to do in three short months prior to the world cup. Sure, they had 30 players left in England, sure there was a stomach virus in the squad. Nevertheless they were battered twice in two weeks – comprehensively. South Africa can consider it job done and will look forward to refining their plans through the Tri-Nations.

Me on the other hand – I wore my England shirt with pride. Much to the dismay of numerous South African supporters, Loftus is a pretty hostile place in this respect. I admired their team loyalty as many of them Brai’d hard before the match and the smell of lamb chops hung heavy before and after the match.

It was an excellent day – and my first chance to see live Rugby Union in South Africa. I dearly hope to go again.

I was also really impressed that once the players had left the field they opened the gates up for the children to run riot on the field. A lot of kids were having the time of their lives – sad we can not do the same at Twickenham:

Roll on the Tri-Nations and the World Cup!


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