Phase 1 of my Rugby World Cup 2011 attendance in New Zealand kicks into action soon, with the tickets for the pool matches and quarter-finals going on sale on April 27th.
The showcase event in New Zealand is some 17 months away only, and in terms of preparation, the Boks are definitely well ahead of where they were this time four years ago. Given that they captured the Holy Grail in 2007, and are the current Tri-Nations champions, expectations are naturally high!
The Boks kick off their campaign against Wales in the windy city of Wellington, in the south of the North Island, and New Zealand’s capital. They return to this venue a week later for a tricky encounter with Fiji and then head up to the South African expat-stronghold of Albany on the North Shore (Auckland) for their final two pool games against Namibia and Samoa. All things going according to plan, and we are back down in Wellington for the quarter-final against Australia, Ireland or Italy.
A word on our Sevens team, the BlitzBokke, who have had a tough old season. Being the defending champions of the IRB 7s Series was always going to be hard, but especially so when three of the captains went down and they had countless other injuries to key senior players. However, the boys have fared reasonably well in the circumstances, making the Plate final of all six tournaments this season, and winning once (in Las Vegas, against Fiji). Australia has been our hoodoo side in those finals, beating us three times! I have no doubt coach Paul Treu will have some of his charges back raring to go come May, and I look forward to seeing all of them in London for the Twickenham Sevens. I spoke with regular captain Paul Delport the other day, and he is positive about the remaining two events.
Just a quick observation on the Super 14 schedule – the Sharks’ schedule is a nightmare! Whoever formulated their itinerary must be a psychopath (or perhaps it was one of the Aussie referees!). To go five weeks on tour, crossing the Tasman Sea twice, back and forth between Australia and NZ, and then straight back into it against the Reds in Durban on Saturday, is simply insane. It then goes from the sublime to the ridiculous as they are only given their bye after that…
This article originally appeared on The South African in 2010.