The SAB World of Beer was a hive of activity on Saturday 25 July as corporates, sports events groups, and parties of families and friends came to experience one of history's greatest unions: beer and sport. Before the Springboks took on the All Blacks at 5pm, the World of Beer welcomed over 350 visitors, including two big groups from SWB Sports and from KDA Travel, both of which offer sports tours as part of their service offerings.
Former Springbok flyhalf Butch James, who was part of the South African team that won the 2007 Rugby World Cup, was interviewed by former Talk Radio 702 sports host John Cramp.
When asked what it was like to be a part of the team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2007, James said that it's always difficult to put those sorts of emotions into words: "It's obviously the pinnacle for every rugby player to win a Rugby World Cup ... It's a wonderful feeling, and obviously something that no one can ever take away from me."
James's career was defined by two things, said Cramp: injuries and tackles, both of which James spoke about. "I have battled with my knees. I've had five ACL reconstructions, each one of those is nine months [of recovery] and my first one started when I was in standard nine at school, so I've had it all the way through. Every now and then, the one knee gets jealous of the other one for having more ops and it plays up. So it's been a tough road, but every one I've learned from and tried to come back a better player. I think I did do that through the injuries."
Speaking ahead of Saturday's game, James conceded that it was going to be tough: "We're playing against the best team in the world ... It's quite staggering how good the All Blacks are at the moment."
He also touched on building for the World Cup. "I think all the coaches are looking towards the World Cup, as well as the teams," he said. "Building momentum, getting that confidence going into a tournament like the World Cup is always important.
"I've been fortunate to have had a lot of good coaches," said James. "Jake [White] was one who backed me from a young age so he's definitely one of them. But another one here at the Lions was Johan Ackermann. I think he's a great coach and an even better person, which I think makes a good coach ... I was fortunate in 2007 to work with Eddie Jones, who is really smart. So it's been a great journey for me and I've learned a lot from all these great coaches and even more from all the players who I've been lucky enough to work with."
Former Springbok No 8 Thys Burger also spoke briefly, and offered details on three unique rugby balls that were for sale, and a fourth that could be won through a raffle. The balls had been collectively signed by former Springbok captains Johan Classen (1955) and Nelie Smith (1964); Andre Joubert, who played in the Rugby World Cup in 1995; Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira; Schalk Burger; Jean de Villiers; and current Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Steve Braham, the owner of SWB Sports, first organised an event at the World of Beer last year: "I just found the facilities last year excellent," he said, "I found the management and service levels really good and reliable, and communications were good – everything you want on a match day. Because for a big match, it's all about logistics and timings, and it's got to be snap-snap, and I think the World of Beer lends itself for that very reason."
The World of Beer also offers a bit of variety to the day's events, Braham said. "A lot of people go straight to a pub or they go straight to the grounds. Whereas here, they meet at a rugby club, they get on the buses, they come here, they'll hear a speaker talk, enjoy a nice lunch, chill in a nice environment, have a tour if they want to, which is obviously an added bonus, and then they head off to the grounds. So they get a lot of variety in a day."
Niel Keays, one of the day's attendees, came to South Africa from the United Kingdom for business and to watch the rugby. "It's been really good," he said, speaking of the day's events. "It's got a taste of everything and it's money extremely well spent. We always look at what you spend on something, and I feel as a service from start to what I've experienced so far, that I'm extremely satisfied."
Unfortunately, the All Blacks won Saturday's game 27-20, achieving some revenge for last year’s narrow defeat at Ellis Park, and gaining the psychological upper-hand ahead of a potential meeting at the upcoming Rugby World Cup in England and Wales. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw celebrated his last international match in South Africa by scoring the winning try via a fantastic line-out move. Highlights for Springbok fans included the tries by Willie le Roux and Jesse Kriel, as well as the skill and physicality of Bismarck du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth and Damian de Allende.