South Africa v Wales, RWC2011, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, September 2011
No rock gigs for a bit, but instead the symphonic accompaniment of ‘World in Union’ as the Rugby World Cup tournament returned to New Zealand for the first time in 24 years. We had such a blast in France in 2007 that we were not going to miss the party in our own back yard, so tickets to every game in Wellington were purchased. South Africa v Wales was our first match, and both teams were based in Wellington for the pool phase, so town was awash with Bok fans and Welsh supporters for days before - the fan zone and other bars were doing very nicely out of it. There was no escaping the rugby in town, there was a huge buzz of excitement… exactly what a World Cup should be. It was a close game, with the Boks winning 17-16 in the end, 2 tries to 1, and only getting that second try in the 65th minute – Wales really were edging them in all the stats. Fi and I had a great time at the game, it was awesome - my best experience at the Cake Tin since All Black Tests years before, back during Tana’s captaincy… there was just such a positivity- inflected edge to it all; pressure & banter, but in good spirit. So close, and though Wales sprayed two more chances to land penalty goals and win it, I am still surprised that Barnes did not go to the TMO for a another Welsh shot at goal by James Hook that was ruled a miss. It was the World Cup FFS, and that game’s result has significant impact on the whole draw, certainly the pool. Ref Wayne Barnes did not have a great game - Jacques Fourie and Fourie du Preez were constantly offside!!! Sam Warburton was immense for Wales, as was Jamie Roberts. But Brussouw! What a scrounger, and F Steyn was class. The Bokke fans were in great voice, as were the Welsh ... plus I think most Kiwis were backing the Red Dragons, as I was. That’s not out of any real dislike of the Boks, for me it was more backing the underdog - and frankly, I like the enterprise of the Welsh, always have, even if it sometimes falters completely.