Saturday in Port Elizabeth was a fantastic day for South Africa: in a splendid stadium, in a city with a rich rugby tradition, the Springboks defeated the All Blacks, sparking celebratory braais across the country. But it wasn’t just beating New Zealand that was important: it was getting a morale boost for the National Braai Day Rugby Championships, also known to some people as the Rugby World Cup.
Possibly because so many South Africans have moved over to New Zealand as braai missionaries – introducing boerewors, tjops and Castle to the locals, and stopping them from using heathen terms like ‘barbecue’ – the New Zealand government, together with the International Rugby Board, have decided to celebrate National Braai Day by holding rugby’s biggest tournament at the same time. So, the chance for players and fans from 19 different countries to descend on New Zealand to braai for six weeks, and play/watch rugby in between.
National Braai Day itself falls on an important date in the tournament: as well as England playing Romania (make sure you have your Romania jersey freshly washed for the occasion), the All Blacks are playing France in the biggest game of the World Cup’s opening round. The All Blacks have a poor record against the French, which is obviously why they’ve scheduled this game for September 24 – they’re hoping to draw inspiration from National Braai Day, and beat France.
Far more important for us, though, will be the Springbok matches, given that the South African team will include famous braaiers like Willem Alberts, Bismarck Du Plessis, Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana, who’re also quite well-known rugby players. Six weeks of braaing, some quite big rugby games, and the biggest day of all, National Braai Day: this is by some distance the greatest event New Zealand will ever have seen.