Rugby Legends Ride with One Eye on the Big Game

Image by Xavier Briel

It has been 12 years since the Springboks last played in an IRB Rugby World Cup final. In 2007 the team was captained by (now avid mountain biker) John Smit and they defeated England by 15 points to 6 in the Stade de France. Halfway around the world, the Springboks are preparing to take on the same opponents, in the International Stadium Yokohama, on Saturday the 2nd of November 2019. Back in South Africa meanwhile, the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event is taking every step to ensure every rider, who would like to, can watch the final.


Two riders, in particular, are very eager to watch the game. One, Jeremy Thompson will have no trouble finishing in time for the 11:00 kick-off. In fact, Thompson is a mountain biker of such skill and fitness that he is likely to be showered, and ready to put his feet up with a cold Cape Brewing Co beer, in time for the big game. Kyle Brown might cut it a little finer in his quest to reach Oak Valley in time for the final.


“I’ve told Mboneni [Ngcobo] he’ll have to pull hard tomorrow” Thompson joked, suggesting that his teammate Mboneni Ngcobo would have to set a ferocious pace for the Land Rover team on Stage 2. “I don’t think we’ve peaked yet as a team. And I honestly believe we have one left in the bag. One card left to play and I think we’re going to pull it off tomorrow” the former Sharks centre enthused.


Given his and Ngcobo’s finish time of 3 hours, 12 minutes and 43.8 seconds on the opening stage, the Land Rover team are likely to finish Stage 2 just after 09:00. Leaving them with nearly 2 hours to prepare for the rugby. To aid the slower riders, the FNB Wines2Whales have decided to bring forward the start time to 06:00.


Brown, who is riding with 2016 Olympian Mari Rabie, will need that extra hour to make it back in time. The 64-kilometre-long Stage 2, tends to be completed in a faster time than the 65-kilometre-long opening stage, but still without the benefit of an early start, Brown would have been in trouble.


“I only bought a mountain bike three months ago” the recently retired Blitz Bok revealed. “Don’t all retired rugby players become mountain bikers?” he joked. As part of the Land Rover team, and with an accomplished mountain biker at his side Brown, has made the exceptionally rapid progress. Showcasing the enviable ease at which gifted sportsmen and women pick up new skills.


“I love how mountain biking takes you to places you would otherwise not be able to see” Brown continued. “When I’m on my bike I nearly forget about the outside world.” Except of course he has not forgotten about Saturday’s game. “I like the way we have been dominating the breakdown” the former Springbok Sevens captain offered as analysis. “If we can disrupt England at the rucks and stop them from getting quick ball, then we can nullify their attack. If we do that, we have an excellent chance of winning.”


For the riders who, unlike Brown and Thompson, will not be able to finish the full Stage 2 before 11:00, the race has provided an official short cut. The “Bok Supporter” short cut starts at the 40-kilometre mark and reduces the route by 12 kilometres. Riders who wish to make it back to Oak Valley in time for the final should look out for the “This way to the RWC Final” sign which will be put up at 09:15. Riders taking the short cut will receive a 90-minute time adjustment, but will still be regarded as official FNB Wines2Whales finishers; should they reach Onrus on Sunday.