Pretoria – 2nd Test
Breakfast was the usual thing on Saturday morning with a mass of different things to choose from. I went for the donuts, I was spotted by the manager eyeing them up wondering if I really actually could have donuts for breakfast – covered in chocolate and everything and I was spotted. He came over to tell me that I could not walk past them and not have one that they were by far the best thing on offer for breakfast that morning. I’m telling you now; my stomach will no doubt get larger as a result but eeeebygum it was worth it. I resisted the temptation to go back for seconds though for which I was most proud.
We had a bit of time after breakfast to ourselves before we went and left for the Second Test. I was feeling pretty on top of the clouds with the excitement and similar to a small child at Disneyland about to meet Mickey Mouse. I had to chill the hell out before making myself look like a right nana. So I lay on my bed for a bit listening to a radio station through the TV who were doing nothing but going on about a Michael Jackson tribute weekend this coming weekend starting at 10am – it was turned off pretty quickly and I decided to get myself all dressed and ‘tarted up’ for the match. On went the beloved Bath Rugby face tattoo. Using the pre-prepared template – laminated and everything Ill have you know so that it could be re-used for the final test as well I donned a vague resemblance to the Lions logo as well on the other cheek. The ‘skirt’ of my massive flag was put on (for now) and then . . . to top it all off was the mother of all wigs – my blue black and white wig. I was dressed and ready to go. I looked pretty darned hot I have to say (see photo!)
Camera, money, ticket, wrist band – lets go and to the lift I went with it all on and the sunglasses too, of course for the ‘cool’ look. I got some giggles from people that I passed on the way to the lift which I was prepared for. But it was when I got outside to the others – Janette and Ian (Glos supporters) Sue and Clinton (from Devon) and Mike and Irene (Porthcawl and still no bags) to name a few that the giggles came ‘oh my god classic’ – I thought everyone was going to be getting in the spirit of it. Nope, as usual, just me! I didn’t care I was still proud as hell to be supporting my club as well as the Lions. I was posing for masses of photos and I hate to think what the tag lines will be under most of them – the weirdo of the tour! Pah, who cares! It was a friggin Lions match and I was here!!!! Simon gave me the nod of approval and thankfully pointed out that there was not only one Bath Supporter and how they had to answer both of us. I am coping just fine and have already pointed out the white line on the swimming pool which I may have to indulge in later – needs must and all that!! (The vacuum for the pools trail) I thought I would get in there first and to be fair I think that saved me from quite a lot of banter as I showed that I am good humoured about it. There were several who didn’t realise it was me to begin with and it was not until they asked someone that they were told – tee hee hee!
So sitting on the bus in the car park at the time that we were meant to go and all bar 2 were on. We had already had a reminder that things run like clock work when the timings are kept to as they are there for a reason and we all agreed and discussed it was best for us all to be there well early than hold the others up. As well as the 2 that had not appeared we had Jeremy who somehow in the hour that he had had it for had managed to loose his wrist band to get him into the Big Bar (The Lions Den). The third of the party went to find his two mates who, it turned, were sat in the bar thinking that we were all still there. See it helps to keep in with the group so that you know who you are travelling with if they are not in the same place as you!! We decided as a coach that they should so be given a forfeit as a result. Sing a song at the front of the coach or buy everyone a drink. I think that to begin with they thought we were joking. Urmmmnnn no!
All aboard and off we went – it was a tight squeeze for some as the seats were 3 on one side and two on the other, I however had taken one of the front seats which was all on its own. It was evident that the driver was totally lost as he was starting to pause longer and longer at junctions clearly trying to work out which direction he should be going. Eventually he asked a car – I couldn’t see it as I was the wrong side of the coach. Before you know it we have a Police escort in front of us guiding us to the stadium. Not any old escort though sirens going lights flashing they were flashing everyone to move out of the way even at red lights and everything. It was absolutely classic as we waved at all we passed. I am glad that we had a bit of a nose through the centre but I am also glad that it was from the inside of the coach!! After a little while we had the sergeant on board with us as he was then directing the coach whilst the police in the car in front would suddenly get out every now and then to move the traffic on at the red lights. It was absolutely classic and the whole bus was in fits of hysterics, even more so as we gave other passing Gullivers coaches the royal wave as we sped past them! It was good that Simon is trying to pull out all the stops to make the day memorable!!!
We had all coaches parked in a car park a way from the stadium and there were people holding signs along the route to the Big Pub prior to the match. All so brilliantly organised – but that it part of what we pay for. It was kind of odd as we expected loads of stalls and things around the Stadium but there were none leading up to it. So we joined the masses heading into the Big Pub – aptly called the Lions Den. It was a total sea of red. So the usual witty comments of – don’t worry, you will spot me easily I am wearing red! Your wrist band was stamped and you were given your food and drink tickets. I got a wee emotional at this stage. It was all actually happening I was here I was amongst the rest of the Lions Supporters out here and the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was on a high, I think pretty much with the same type of feeling as me. I managed to catch up with all of the Bath lot that I knew were going to be there and now I feel that is done – next week I am going to be making the effort to be soaking up the atmosphere for myself. But I wanted to have a touch base with them all so that we can reminisce when we got back. I spotted a Bath flag hanging up under an shady brollie and we kind of walked towards it – suddenly I realised that it was Steve and Rich so I went up behind and smacked him on the arse – just as he would have done to me!
The Welsh male choir sang a number of songs, my personal favourite was ‘we are marching in the light of God’ and the Zulu (I think that it is Zulu) version. But to be fair the one that went down the best was the Irish Anthem but with Lions in place of Ireland. My throat was already quite sore from before we left but it was really starting to hurt quite a lot after the singing. We were looking at a no voice possibility after the match here. Deciding to take in as much of the atmosphere as possible we headed to the stadium which was a short walk from the Lions Den this was about an hour and a half prior to kick off. The sea of red and green was pretty impressive but at this point there was more red than green that could be seen. I walked in with Janette and Ian and we walked part way around the stadium trying to find our Gate. We were told by one of the Security guards that we could go in the Gate that we were currently by as the Gate 6 – that we were meant to be going through was chocker and it would take us ages. So in we went. I didn’t break down like I did at the World Cup Final ’07 but then I guess it was that I knew that the ticket was real here. We were in incredibly easily and were dying to get tour seats to sit and finally be there and marvel in the glory of the surroundings, get those Lions chants going and so on. This was not going to be as easy as getting through the Gate though.
We went up to the level that we thought that we were on but could not find the letter that corresponded to our ticket so went to ask some one. Aaaahhhh, you need to go back down stairs and to the right. So down we went fighting the crowds coming up to try and get to the entrance. Looking for our letters they seemed to be going down rather than up and so we were clearly going on the wrong direction, we asked again. Aaaahhhh no maam, you need to go upstairs and to the left. So back upstairs we went (can you see where this is going?!) to find more frustration that we, once again were back where wehad been before and still no where bloody near a letter that was near to L. This was starting to really piss me off as we had been up and down the fricking stairs enough times to sink a ship and frankly, running up and down stairs was not what I had planned on a match day in the high altitude (if it can effect their play on the pitch I’m bloody well using that excuse too – nothing to do with me being unfit or anything!!) On the penultimate time of asking we found out that we were no even on the bloody higher level – being ill advised my SO many of the ‘ground staff’ was ridiculous. So we thought that we would head up to Gate no 6 which was on our ticket to be somewhere that we should have come in by. Logical you would have thought.
In effect we were walking up the outside of the East side of the Stadium and at about the half way mark it bottle necked. I am not even sure why as there did not appear to be an entrance way where we were and it was predominantly South Africans and those Lions – like us were just trying to find our fricking seat – STILL. The crowd started pushing and I was almost a head below the size of the bastards all around me. Built like brick shit houses and clearly part of the front row – second at a push. There was no way that they were going to be looking after little old me (still adorning the beautiful wig). They probably didn’t realise that I was female to be fair as although there are parts of me that make that fairly obvious I was carrying my rucksack on my front to try and prevent any thing being nicked. We were crushed basically. I hate even crowds at a concert; I have to stand back away from it. This was my idea of hell. I had no one looking out for me really. It was me looking after me and all I concentrated on was keeping my footing and not flaking out. I kept taking BIG deeps breaths as all air was squished out of me. My legs were getting knocked about to buggery and yes. Yes I was indeed shitting myself (not literally though!) I had Hillsborough going through my head at this point. I feared the worst. Thankfully though, after what felt like an eternity, we were out the other side. I will state quite clearly here and now. There is absolutely NO WAY that they are ready to cope with the drunken masses of the Football World Cup next summer. The crush to get to your seat and the poor signing really angered me that I had spent all this bloody money on the trip and I was not even going to get to see my boys run out on pitch.
Somehow we made it in to the Stadium – thanks to a lovely lady who actually DID know the seating arrangements of the Stadium and we went in the left and corner of the East stand but our seats were all the way over in the right hand corner. We opted to walk the length of the stand down the front and, as a result had an awesome view of the boys coming out – the photo may not be awesome though as I was quick marching to get to my seat at the time! Everyone was stood up thankfully as we arrived at our row – finally, admittedly the wrong end. I made my arrival by running the entire length of the row along the seats as everyone was stood up for the South African National Anthem. I was gutted. I love the anthem and I was lucky enough to be sable to hear the South Africans sing it at the World Cup Final – but somehow I felt that this version was going to be way more passionate than I had heard before. I had missed it though as the rush of getting the fat bastards out of the way on the way up to the row was more of a task than you could have anticipated. There is, however, one more opportunity – Jo’burg next weekend.
My seat was next to Simon – bless, and I was sat next to the Welsh couple too – whose names escape me just now. We had a cracking opening to the match I have to say and the first half of the match was just electrifying and as for the atmosphere, words simply can’t describe. As I have said before I am not one for being able to commentate on the match after as I, to be fair seem to forget most of it before we have even walked out of the Stadium! However the gouging in the first couple of mins on one of our guys. Excuse me but only a yellow card??? How the hell can that be when players are cited and so on and are banned for matches? It should have been a red. The language around me was mighty fruity after that and it was evident that the match was going to be brutal. Not only on the pitch but with the level of shouting to out shout the Bokkas. I did find it amusing that they kept shouting out at us in Afrikaans, clearly going ot be swear words and what have you. In reply Bread of Heaven – I know I couldn’t believe I was singing a Welsh song either – went up tenfold. Totally drowned them all out it was awesome. We had swing low and of course the ever present Lions chant that is SO much more pleasing to shout than Bath, only because I could do so at the top of my lungs and it felt special to be able to do that I was ACTUALLY there!. We led the entire match. We, as ever, had some fairly dodgy calls that were not replicated when the infringements we completed by the opposition. Did the ref have South African ancestors or what????
We have lost 6 guys due to injuries on the pitch, concussion, broken hand/finger, smashed cheek bone and more. Considering we have been so lucky with injury all through out the tour it is bloody sods law really isn’t it. When we lost BOTH props within mins we were down to uncontested scrums, which was where we seemed to fall apart as to me it appeared that we dominated through the pack. I can now see why we didn’t have Mearsy small and mighty but I feel the other hookers on tour are a bit weightier in bulk. I REALLY hope that he plays next weekend, even off the ruddy bench.
My voice fled after the first 5 mins but that didn’t stop me. And as for that ‘try’ – his right foot was CLEARLY in touch but yet the ref seemed to choose to ignore that fact and awarded it anyway – despite the touch judge clearly pointing it out on the commentary on the ref link ‘hang on you can clearly see his foot is in touch there’. The Lions Supporters in our area were livid – like the rest of them I guess all around the stadium.
I felt absolutely gutted at the final whistle. I was rendered speechless. We had come so fricking close and then lost in the dying second. Unbelievable, totally unbelievable. It of course means that they win the series and so the celebrations went on, on the pitch and them all wandering round. No idea where the Lions suddenly all went to as we could not see them but then we were the wrong side of the stadium for the ‘prize giving’. As the final whistle/siren/horn went several of them were totally flat out on their backs taking a few moments. Clearly emotional having worked so hard after all 80 mins and loosing so many players and leading the whole time, to loose like that and be a player in that position must be gut wrenching. We paused for Paul O’Connells non-plus speech in my view. Does that man ever how any real emotion? To me he speaks in such a monotone I really can’t see how he can be the one in the changing room firing up the lads. But then who am I to presume? And then headed out of the stadium. I was fearful that we would experience the same sort of crush that I had experienced on the way in – thankfully not as most of the Bokkas were of course still cheering on their boys – lucky bastards.
The atmosphere walking out of and ¾ of the way around the stadium (we thought it best to go the long way round as we were fighting against the traffic and thus had a fairly easy path) was most surreal to put it mildly, it was exactly the same after the World Cup Final there was a deadly hush which you just would not expect. By the time that we had go to the equivalent of the opposite side of the Stadium from where we were sat, but outside we were in amongst the Bokka fans and there did not seem to be any great jubilation from them, it was like it was just any old match that bore no relevance so they did not seem o celebrate. There was not really even any jeers at us as the opposing fans as we walked through. It was just seriously weird. We got stuck rather by where the two team coaches were as there was suddenly an infestation of police which we had not seen anywhere else. The traffic slowed right down. Someone has since told me that it was because Zuma was coming out of the stadium and being led away by police escort (rather like how we arrived!!!).
We headed back to the Big Bar as Simon had said that we were all going to met there for a drink but we arrived and I made sure that I kept the wig on so that we could easily be spotted by the rest of the group and we stood by the entrance but saw not one of the group – most odd. The atmosphere was really eerie, back in the same place where all those hours ago we were on the highest spirits possible marvelling in the excitement of actually making it and now we were feeling winded sand everyone’s shoulders seemed hunched or slumped. But it was the atmosphere that really struck me. The silence, you could almost hear a pin drop as some poor bugger had the odious task of ‘entertaining us’ by coming on and saying its not all that bad and what have you. No one was in the party spirit any longer. It crept into my mind that the whole trip had been a waste of a lot of money and precious time. That soon fled though once we were back on the bus.
We had a long wait for Simon who was bringing up the rear of the group and after a ‘Churchillesc speech’ (as one of the others described it) we had the lads from earlier who seem to have now got the nickname Boyzone poor sods doing their forfeit – I don’t think that they realised that they would not get away with not doing it. A rendition of the Oasis classic Wonderwall started off the group singing on the way back with one from Simon as well – singing in the rain with actions for his tardiness. Any non-rugby person would have thought that we had won from the vibe on the bus. The motion was carried that although we lost we were blooming proud of our boys and it sure as hell was not going to ruin our trip.
That kind of followed when we got back to the hotel. The original plan in my book was to head to my room shower and take off the strip which frankly humdinged and I smelt like, well like a man. Not attractive but ho hum – never quite made it as we hit the bar first. After a few we all headed into supper in the restaurant in the hotel as Simon had organised that we all had a long table together. Well the ‘long table’ was for about 8 people and I would say that there was a darned good 30 of us all eating together. The waiters slowly started realising that spread out was not what we wanted – we wanted to be ‘as one!’ We took up most of the back area of the restaurant and had once again delicious food.
It was the entertainment that followed that has to go down as making all of our days though. We had been informed that the staff was hoping that we would sing again like the others started the previous evening. Well we like to do what we are told us Pink Leopards so sing we bloody well did. Any song with actions was sung along with usual rugby anthems and of course Swing Low with the actions over dramatized, without words and actions only had us all in giggles as there was one word – of course that was shouted out at the appropriate time. My favourite though has to be Sunshine Mountain. Oh dear god. It basically starts with one person, I can’t remember the words just now but it ends with ‘and you’ where upon you point o someone else who gets on their chair and off you go again. Safe to say we had a rather large proportion of the entire restaurant on their chairs and kept going with the ‘and you’s’ until people stood on their chairs. After that the ruder songs came out and whilst I would love to share some of the spur of the moment additions that were added, I will keep those as my own personal memory of the evening as they had us all in stitches, more so because of the comic timing. A ‘you had to be there’ moment to fully appreciate their geniusnuss!
As we were sort of winding down having had NO luck with the Bokka family in the corner joining us (the two sons faces at some of the songs really was a sight worth seeing – jaw hit the floor on many occasions) but they were having nothing when we asked them to start us off on a song. Suddenly the fire door opened and in came the kitchen staff and some of the waiters who had clearly heard the shenanigans and they came and did a couple of songs for us. It was classic, one of the chefs was using a roll of tin foil as his trumpet – and rather well too it has to be said!! Only the father of the Bokka family joined in though and only briefly at that. Superb end to a hilarious evening.
Dancing and a fair few more beers were consumed before the clock chimed bed time. The music stopped at 11 but it feels so much later always as it gets dark much earlier being in the Southern Hemisphere and winter and so on. I trundled on up to bed and sorted out my bag pretty much as we had to have them outside our rooms for the porters to collect the following morning at 9am so that we were all good to go to the airport in reasonable time. I have no idea how I thought I was going to close it the following morning.
Was awoken (as was nearly the whole group) around the 4 o’clockish mark by ridiculously loud music. The Ting Tings ‘That’s not my name’. At first I though it was an alarm on my phone or even it ringing then realised I don’t have it on my phone at all. Then checked the tv was not on radio, or my iPod suddenly turned on. It was insane and who knows where it came from, we tried working it out the following morning but could see no where that it would have come from. It was quite funny trying to work out at which point people woke up – as in which song the woke to!
On to Cape Town the following morning/lunchtime/afternoon/early evening. Bloody delays!! We passed our time waiting for everyone to come through by playing ‘catch’ with one of the rugby balls that someone had brought. I cleverly got out my camera to take photos thus taking myself out of that sort of situation, I could feel myself starting to stress over it and the fact that I could drop it and be laughed at – even though others were too. We managed to successfully break 2 pairs of sunglasses from dodgy throws and decided that surely the best place to play this was on the beach at some point. I can see many of us getting VERY wet if we do!!