Tribute to the Fields of Athenry: High lay’s the field of Loftus-Versfeld, Where once Lions a victory almost held, Our love was on the wing, We had dreams and songs to sing, It’s so lonely ’round the Fields of Loftus-Versfeld’.
Big match day was upon us no sooner than we had finished the night’s shenanigans before. Our Hotel Manager in Jo’berg was a Brit so buying a beer was impossible as he was for once surrounded by his allies. A strange self preservation society has wrapped itself around our party with tourists (myself included I hasten to add!) re-discovering the gym, it gives us a sense of empathy with the boys, and also allows us to empty the tank for another undoubtedly steak Boerewurst and beer filled day. I could get used to this lifestyle, so after another 3 a.m. finish we cracked into the gym at 07:30, and believe me there was a strange funk in the gym that day. Not just the smell of anticipation, but a lot of testosterone and an acrid cloud of ‘Castle’ fumes!
Songs from every nation on the bus to Pretoria, even an attempt at a Hakka helped to calm the nerves of all of the supporters and raise our passions. What would we need to do to win this match? The general consensus of opinion involved us scoring more points than the Boks (thanks for that kind input Carmarthen?!), but there was general agreement that an early lead would be ideal. With the Springboks chasing, surely our fitness would close out the game and level the series. Someone had read most of the script but skipped the ending as it was to unfold.
There must be a fine line between support and fanaticism, a line that in Pretoria becomes regularly blurred and not only in the Green and Gold I am glad to say. Any barbed comment or shout was matched with equal ferocity, and yet all within in the realms of the fellowship of Rugby, a pretty commendable showing of competitive yet sporting behaviour from both bunches of loonies!
The plot unfolded just how we had all envisaged, a volley of attacks from the charging Lions, a sound lead, competitive in all areas of the game, wave after wave of red throwing themselves time and time again at the green and gold ramparts. Was that a hint of light at the end of the tunnel? The crowd certainly believed so, but those lost pages at the end of the script had been re-written and the jagged defence of a lucky to be 15 Boks had taken its toll on the Lions – you don’t become World Champions by luck, but with luck, and a ferocious tenacity.
Lots of my touring companions have been hiding their boots especially after yesterday’s game for fear of being called up into the squad, Billy’s Boots and all that. But, referring back to the parties’ gym sessions I think the team is safe!
Sun City and a few days of downtime this week will help to raise the spirits and charge us for next week’s match.
Play with pride next week and for The Pride, we all believe in you.
Did I tell you the one about the……..