I give Scottish Amber a buzz to see if she is in Auckland and it turns out she is half an hour off arriving and booking into the same hostel as me. After a quick lie low, I meet her in the hostel bar at 5, where we claim our 2-for-1 beers as a warm up for the evening ahead. It is likely going to take us a good hour to get to the out-of-town North Harbour stadium for the South Africa v Samoa match, so there’s just time for another 2-for-1 with half a dozen kilts in Globe Bar, close to the free stadium coaches. As my good Scottish friend, Neil, pointed out to me by email today, I seem to be spending a lot of time knocking about with the auld enemy, Scotland. You have to laugh really, I spent most of my time in Argentina hanging around with Argies and Germans, and in New Zealand, thus far, it has been Argies, Scots and Yanks! It reads like a who’s who of England’s greatest rivals and ‘enemies’. I don’t know whether this makes me a freak with identity issues or an international minister of love and world peace.
North Harbour stadium is way, way out of central Auckland. The atmosphere in the stadium is absolutely bouncing. More Samoans live in and around Auckland, I believe, than in Samoa itself, and they are here in big numbers for this crunch match. So too are the South Africans, many of them sporting tell-tale Afrikaan beards. In fact, of the hundreds of South Africans I have so far encountered in NZ, almost all of them have been Afrikaaners, speaking that distinct keeping-it-real version of the Dutch language that so distinguishes them from the other races of the Rainbow Nation.
This is my fourth match of the world cup and easily the most engrossing and enjoyable to date. South Africa look powerful and ruthless, like a bunch of Afrikaan farmers who are hungry for their dinner; while the Samoans are pacey, sharp and full of imagination. The South Africans make the breakthrough with a great try just in front of me in the corner. The Samoans, meanwhile, constantly threaten but just lack that final bit of composure. At half time the South Africans lead 13-0 and it looks like game over.
The Samoans though, aren’t about to take this lying down and come out after the break going straight at the Springboks. I am sat next to a very large Samoan gentleman, who is up on his feet bouncing about with joy as his team score a deserved try right in front of where we are swigging from his hip flask. He’s a top lad and his constant supply of free vodka from a seemingly bottomless silver flask ensures that I remain drunk before, during and after the match. With the Samoans playing some free flowing and imaginative rugby, together with some solid defence, the South Africans begin to wobble. But with the score at 13-5 South Africa’s Blussow manages to get Samoa’s Williams red carded for a slap in the face after giving the lad in question a couple of damn good punches. As Blussow complains to the linesman, Williams gives him a (deserved) slap and he goes down like Cristiano Ronaldo. The Afrikaan fans sat all around us are getting heated with some colourful bilingual language.
With the Samoans down to 14 men, the South Africans should kill it off but the ref, perhaps feeling some guilt for showing a dubious red, levels up the personnel on the pitch with a harsh yellow card for South Africa’s John Smit, following a deliberate knock on.
In the end, South Africa’s kicking is ultimately the difference between the two sides as they edge out the Samoans 13-5.
It is chaos getting on the buses back with scuffles breaking out. A full 90 minutes later I meet the Scots back at the Globe but it is an almighty sausage fest. I walk Amber back to her hostel and go off for a stroll down by the quay where there are a couple of decent lounge bars. Five members of the South African squad - the rugby world champions - are in one club but, unlike their English counterparts in Queenstown, I have to report that they are very well behaved and acting like complete gentlemen. I spot them in one further bar but like me they seem to be trying in vain to find somewhere that isn’t full with a couple hundred sweaty blokes.
At 2am I seem to have finally tracked down a club with plenty of Kiwis present. I queue up and watch the two inebriated youngsters in front of me get a knock back. This should be easy for me to get past the door man; I am a good 10-15 years older than most of the punters and, having strolled around town for an hour, I am pretty damn sober. Maori doorman:
“Yeah, cheers. You?”
“Fine thanks. Haragoonee?”
“I am sorry I don’t understand what you are asking me.”
“I said haragoonee!?”
Bloody hell, this is embarrassing. I really don’t get what he is asking me. He must think I am taking the pi##.
“Where are you from sir?”
“I’m sorry but you will have to step back. You are too drunk to understand what I am asking you.”
I do as I am told and tell the bloke behind me that I just couldn’t understand what he was asking.
“He was asking you if you have 'had a good night'.”
Bloody hell, knocked back from a club because I can’t understand someone’s accent. I best get myself home.