In the stands with Marlie Packer
It’s not everyday you get to watch the Rugby World Cup Semi Finals! Then again it’s not everyday you have the pleasure of watching the game with a World Cup Women’s rugby player. This weekend we caught up with Marlie at Twickenham and this is what she thought of the game.
You knew it was going to be a special occasion on the walk up to the ground. It looked like the whole of the High Veldt, along with everyone from the South African London expat community, had made the pilgrimage to HQ. The Boks’ fans seemed to outnumber the Kiwis by at least five to one. And the smell of the ‘brais’ in the streets around Twickenham added to the sense of takeover.
Given the incredible form of the All Blacks through the tournament, the Green & Golds were going to need every ounce of their support to give them an extra edge, given their difficult journey to the semis.
The atmosphere at Twickenham for the last few weekends has been incredible. I live really close to the ground and I’ve enjoyed the special occasions that only a World Cup can generate. Today it was different though – more tense than raucous, too much at stake for too much party time. This was serious stuff.
I remember in the final stages of the Women’s World Cup in France in 2014, particularly before our semi-final with Ireland, and the realisation that we were 80 minutes, and a strong performance, away from a final. A World Cup Final. Then with a flash – actually a pretty impressive flash – of fireworks, some emotional anthem singing and, of course a Haka, they got it on. And boy did they.
I’ve played in some intense and physical games, but the collisions in this encounter were shuddering. The South Africans’ defence was incredible. They knew that they couldn’t give the All Blacks space and their tactics worked – they led at the half despite NZ scoring a well-worked try in the corner. In reality, though, it never actually looked like the Boks were going to score a try.
After the break, they seemed to lose their nerve; the All Blacks took control. That’s the way it stayed to the final whistle and The All Blacks seemingly destined journey to being the first back-to-back winners of a World Cup was on track. The Springboks didn’t make it easy, but McCaw’s men marched on.
At the end of it all, after eighty minutes of the most intense physical confrontation I have ever witnessed, the two old enemies hugged, shook hands and showed respect. Then they trooped off down the tunnel to recover, probably in the Sprinboks’ case with not a small amount of Castle Lager.
So for the ABs, a date with their beloved Wallabies – and potentially with history awaits. Earls Court will be empty next Sunday.
Having my post-match drink with friends, the conversation was all about the game. “I bet they’ll be stiff tomorrow” said one summariser. Best understatement of the day…