And so the final curtain has fallen on a memorable tour. Was there a symbolic final act? A climactic denouement to nearly three weeks on the road? Sort of. As we all gathered for the night flight back to Heathrow, a video began to circulate of Dai dancing (can we call it that?), with a tribe of Zulu warriors. Were it not for his pale complexion, lack of coordination and red flip-flops, he could easily have been one of them. It was a wonderful sight, and gave me one last hearty chuckle at the end of a tour that’s delivered so many amusing, memorable moments.
Cape Town was magnificent. The kind of place you could spend a month and still feel as though you’ve only scratched the surface. There is probably no city anywhere else on earth with as arresting a backdrop. Wherever you wandered, the view was framed by the magnificent Table Mountain. Moody and mist-shrouded one minute, bright and sun-drizzled the next. It was impossible not to be taken in by its sheer majesty.
One of the highlights was our group trip to Gold’s restaurant for an immersive, African culinary experience. The décor, the outfits and the overall ambience was an assault on the senses, almost as much as the appearance of the Tontai contingent in glorious, matching Hawaiian shirts. We showed we could hold our own in the drumming stakes, working up an appetite after a lengthy communal drumming session, with Arwyn and Dianne among the most enthusiastic percussionists. And speaking of embarrassing videos, one emerged of me “dancing” towards the end of the evening. If it ever happens to find its way to your phone, please delete it immediately. I was fuelled by a few bottles of Stellenbosch’s finest and knew not what I was doing.
A bus trip around the Cape Peninsula was derailed momentarily when one of the buses ground to a halt at a busy junction. Mark and I disembarked while the mechanics got to work, and when we were back up and running in no time. Until we caught up with the rest of the group, we had an entire bus to ourselves. It felt more than a little indulgent, and despite the consternation of the guide who wanted to break the land speed record between Chapman’s Peak and The Cape Of Good Hope, we managed a quick scramble up the rocks to take in the glorious views from Africa’s most south westerly point. The resulting photos of us gazing wistfully into the distance looked more like a failed audition for a Littlewood’s catalogue.
That night, we got ourselves in the mood for the match, with a Q+A with Jamie Roberts, a man who enjoyed many of his finest moments on South African soil. It was the perfect primer for a mouth watering climax to the tour.
And so to the final test. Could a battered and bruised Wales possibly make history by beating the Springboks again, and claiming the series? The atmosphere in the Cape Town Stadium was incredible, and we were blessed with the best weather we’d had on tour. The South African hubris we’d experienced during the first week had been dialled down considerably, and the Springboks fans were considerably less bullish about their teams’ chances than they’d been in Pretoria and Bloemfontein.
Ultimately, it wasn’t to be. After three gruelling weeks, Wales were eventually ground down in the face of a relentless South African onslaught. It was disappointing but not devastating.
History had still been made a week earlier. And when that night in Bloemfontein is recalled long into the future, we can all say, “I was there.”
And while we may have fallen short on the pitch, there was one exchange we won by a country mile. After I’d signed off from my BBC duties, I made my way to the MSG hospitality box, to discover a choir session in full swing, and a group of South African fans from the next box listening in rapt admiration. Request followed request, and each rendition of Calon Lan, Ar Lan Y Mor, and Cwm Rhondda was greeted with enthusiastic applause. As the lights in the stadium were gradually turned off, one remained bright and shining… that of the MSG Hospitality Box. Undimmed. And even Jonny didn’t manage to drink the fridge dry.