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Saved: September 15th 2021
When the IRB announced, in 2005, that New Zealand would be hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup, I vowed I would go. Since my high school exchange here I have made the pilgrimage to my second home twice before.
My fourth visit to New Zealand is technically my fourth and fifth visits, since I'm punctuating my time here with a trip to Australia.
My Rugby World Cup experience began on September 11, when I picked up my tickets in Wellington and spent a few hours in the FanZone watching the afternoon's games on the big screen there until it was time to meet my friend and go to the first game in "Wellington Regional Stadium."
Just as the Australia vs Italy game was wrapping up, the grey skies opened up and the drizzle began. By half time in the Ireland vs. USA game it was downright miserable, but the rains stopped just in time for the start of the South Africa vs. Wales game.
When I was living in the Wellington area as an exchange student, the regional council was trying to decide where to build a new stadium. By the time I made my first return
pilgrimage, in 2003, the "cake tin" was completed. After the transport debacle in Auckland for the Opening Ceremonies and opening match, Wellingtonians were proud that their stadium was centrally-located, right next to the main train station and along the waterfront, and rightly so. Despite another visit in 2006, I still hadn't been inside the new stadium yet.
The stadium looked amazing, and it filled up almost to the brim with fans. The only damper on the mood for the evening was the controversial call that disallowed a kick by Wales. It wasn't their only missed scoring opportunity, but in a 1-point game, it makes all the difference.
A couple of days later, as I was on my way to Australia, I had the opportunity to attend an open practice and autograph session by the Springboks at Rugby League Park in Newtown. It was great to see school children able to come see the practice--many of the Springboks are very well known in New Zealand and even if they play for a rival, they are still heroes to young students. One school group came prepared--they performed a haka while the Springboks were practicing, and then they sang Shosholoza.
While I didn't queue up to get any autographs, I did watch with interest to see which of the Springboks spent as much time as possible meeting fans, and which ones spent as little time as possible meeting fans.
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