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Being a mum on tour – Emma Beard


Looking out on to a sunny street in picture perfect Stellenbosch from our room in the undeniably elegant Oude Werf hotel, I'm still pinching myself that we're finally here. 

With no tourists being allowed on the British Lions tour, my dream of taking my 15-year-old son on a rugby tour of South Africa – a dream I'd been saving for since he was 3 – looked to be fading fast…

But then came the news that Wales were planning a series against the Springbok this summer… and MSG's Rhino Tour taking in the final two Tests was departing just days after Jack finished his GCSEs. Seeing the itinerary for the tour, I couldn't book our seats on that plane fast enough. 

I can't deny I was a little nervous. A single mum and a teenager with English accents (we are Welsh honest!), we're not exactly what you picture when the words 'rugby tour' are uttered in Aberdare rugby club (shout out to my very big Welsh family). No doubt we raised a few eyebrows among our fellow tourists too, but as we bumped along a rutted track on our first game drive with the sun setting over the Pilanesberg only hours after stepping off the plane, we'd already made friends that I hope we'll have for life. 

Only five days into our African adventure, we've made so many memories that will last a lifetime too. Yes, we've drank the bar dry more times than I can remember (literally), but this tour has been so much more than that. 

 

There are not many teenagers who can say they've seen a cheetah feeding a kill to her cubs and eyeballed an elephant in the wild, all while laughing until their sides hurt behind a bloke with a penchant for impersonating Freddie Mercury wearing a cricket jumper and pretend smoking a pipe (don't ask)…

I honestly thought that nothing could beat our safari experience at KwaMaritane, but then we turned up in Bloemfontein to discover we were sharing our hotel with the Springboks. 

As Jack posed with Kolisi, Kolbe and Benny the Lion (youngest tourist always gets the 'privilege' of trying, and failing, to protect the mascot from the light fingers of fellow tourists), I couldn't help but shed a silent happy tear as he beamed from ear to ear.

And I wasn't the only one sobbing with joy later that day as Wales claimed a historic victory over South Africa on their own turf in the second Test. I still can't quite believe we were there to see it. What a day! 

 

For my son Jack (and even for me if I'm honest), this hasn't just been a holiday, it's been a rite of passage. As we've been embraced and entertained by some of the best people we've ever met, I've seen my son growing in understanding and stature before my eyes, winning friends from right across Wales.

After battling through his exams after a difficult year in which his dad passed away, this tour has put the biggest smile back on his (and my) face. 

When Anscombe put over that kick, after an amazing day of singing and dancing at the cricket ground (we even made BBC Wales), I thought our hearts would burst. And with a decider in Cape Town still to come… we know there's more magical memories to be made and croaking Calon Lans to be sung. Cymru am Byth! 

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