My Game 4 of the Rugby World Cup was between South Africa and Samoa, a huge match for the Springboks having been beaten by Japan in what will I imagine be the shock of the tournament. Would they bounce back in style?
The match was at Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa, I had the company of my lovely friends Steve and Claire, after lunch at their house in Leighton Buzzard we set of for Birmingham. It’s very unusual for me to have company away from Saracens, it made a really nice change.
We parked a short walk away from the ground, thanks to Just Park, a reasonably priced parking option. There were lots of South African shirts to be seen on the way to the ground, mixed in with all sorts of others. I had my England shirt on, being mindful of the England v Wales match in the evening.
I had a great seat, very close to the halfway line, I also had great company with Lara and Matt on one side and Gerard on the other. Lara and Matt live in Guernsey, Lara is South African and was I have to say funny, in a really good way, she was so nervous for her team. Gerard is a Kiwi, living in Canada all 3 were very good company throughout the match.
The teams came onto the pitch to a great noise, the South African team, in spite of making 8 changes was full of star names with many years of international rugby behind them, with the likes of Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Jean De Villiers, Schalk Burger and Jannie du Plessis lining up with the odd young star such as Eben Etzebeth and Handre Pollard.
The Samoan 23 included a few names familiar to Premiership Rugby fans, Alesana Tuilagi, and brothers Ken and George Pisi – they would be no pushover for a team coming to the game on the back of 4 losses in 5 games.
As a Saracens fan I confess I only had eyes for one man as the teams lined up for the national anthems – one Schalk Brits – or Sunshine on Legs as I call him! This is a man who always has the biggest smile on his face no matter what, and he was no different as the South African anthem was sung. He was to play a key part in the game as time went on.
The South African anthem is one of my favourites and was sung in style, we were then treated to the Manu Siva Tau performed by Samoa after their own anthem. I’m pleased to say it was properly observed by the crowd.
The opening 12 minutes were nervous times for South Africa as Samoa took the lead with their 2nd penalty, it would be the only time the Samoans held the lead.
JP Pietersen intercepted a loose pass from Mike Stanely running half the length of the pitch to score his first of what would be a hat trick amongst a haul of seven for his team.
South Africa had 61% of the territory and 72% of the possession and yet the game didn’t feel as one sided as all the stats imply, it was a thoroughly entertaining match and Schalk Brits? Got on and scored the bonus point try! I’m sure the whole stadium could see his smile!
With the England game to watch in the evening Claire, Steve and I left a few minutes early, missing the idiot fan who got himself involved in a ruck on the pitch – I believe he was dealt with by a couple of Samoans – never good to see!
It was also a shame to see Jean De Villiers leave the field – his broken cheek bone putting an end to his international career.
A comment on the pitch – it was immaculate! Credit to the ground staff at Villa Park.
- Cost of Ticket £150