If MSG’s mission statement is “delivering the unexpected”, then by delivering a first ever Welsh victory on South African soil we appear to have fulfilled that brief, and then some. OK, we didn’t actually deliver the victory – we have the Welsh players, and Gareth Anscombe’s laser-guided right boot to thank for that – but we’d like to think the passionate, full-throated support from the stands gave the boys that extra bit of faith required to get over the line. Who (other than a few bemused South Africans) couldn’t be inspired by the sight of Dan Vaughan bellowing Sospan Fach across the Mangaung Oval at the top of his voice?
All of which has given this final week a huge injection of optimism. We’ve witnessed a first ever Welsh victory in South Africa… might we be about to witness a series victory? It’s a giddying thought.
We awoke on Sunday with a collective sense of wonder. Did that really happen? As we eased our throbbing temples with caffeine and muted conversation, Johnny set a new record for the earliest gin and tonic ever ordered at Bloemfontein airport. Within hours, we were descending into Cape Town before transferring to the charming town of Stellenbosch; all Dutch-colonial era architecture and shady oak-lined boulevards.
The following day, we were barrelling through the Western Cape weaving our way through the vineyards of the Riebeek Valley, marvelling at craggy majestic mountains, framed by moody skies. Our destination was the Kloovenburg Wine & Olive Estate, owned and operated by the Du Toit family. While eldest son, Pieter-Steph was licking his wounds in Springbok camp, the second-oldest son, Johan, was our host for the day. A pretty tasty rugby player himself, Johan revealed how during lockdown he and his brothers had built much of the new restaurant from scratch – a pretty shaming revelation to this writer, who spent most of lockdown bingeing on Netflix.
After gorging ourselves on delicious olives, homemade breads, and all manner of chutneys, jams, and dipping oils, we headed up the hill to the newest addition to the family estate; a terrace restaurant perched on a cliff edge overlooking a sweeping vista of the Riebeek Valley. It was here that the region’s famous wine really began to flow, and after an entertaining half an hour on the mics with Johan and former Bulls, Saracens, and South Africa U20s coach Alan Zondagh, things took a turn for the surreal. The microphone was hijacked by the Taibach crew, and an increasingly slurred medley of Welsh rugby songs ensued until we reached the eyebrow-arching climax: an enthusiastic, if unorthodox, rendition of Nessum Dorma, by Taibach’s answer to the Three Tenors; The Two Fivers.
It was a fittingly bonkers end to a brilliant day on tour. We’ve now arrived in the mother city, for the final stretch, and any tour cobwebs were blown dramatically away by those who assembled for today’s sunrise trek up Lion’s Head. Scaling the summit seemed like an appropriate metaphor after Wales knocked the World Champions off their lofty perch last Saturday. Up above the clouds, we all dared to dream that it could get even better this weekend.
We’ve all got to know each other intimately on the trip, but with just days to go, some questions remain unanswered. Will Johnny manage a single dry day on tour? Will Benny the Lion make it through unscathed? Did Darryl actually pilot the plane to Cape Town? And perhaps most pressingly of all, has Dai brought any footwear with him other than those red flip-flops?