In a visit to my home town Edinburgh to support the U20s we went with them to the Scotland – South Africa match. It´s years since I´ve been to an international there but my experience of Murrayfield stretches back to the 1950´s. I even scored a try there when playing on the wing for Edinburgh schools against Canada. I was at the game when the mythical South Africans beat Scotland 44 – 0 which with a 5-point try would have been 60 – 0 and also at the game where the SRU admitted 106,000 spectators were present. In actual fact there were 146,000 but there would have been a riot if that figure had been revealed. In these days there was a school pipe-band playing before the game, a senior royal met the teams and elderly stewards escorted spectators to the single stand. In these teetotal days the stewards would also challenge spectators who had smuggled in a hipflask (fickplunta) and eject them from the ground.
Things are a bit different nowadays. Drink is available, the stewards are now young boys and girls who proved incapable of giving any coherent advice about how to find your seats. We climbed about 100 steps, no question of lifts, and found that we were placed just beyond the dead-ball area. This made us almost 100 m. from the centre spot and perhaps 160 metres from the furthest away corner of the pitch. The game started at 5:20 pm, determined of course by the BBC who had scraped together enough to pay for the two cheapest internationals, the other being Wales vs Tonga, and these of course had to be played consecutively. It was dark by the time we were seated with half an hour to go and the floodlighting ranged along the top of the stand also distracted from viewing the actual pitch. Both teams were out by then going through their drills but they were back in the changing rooms with 20 minutes to go. Then all the lights were switched off and the crowd was asked to light up their telephones which many thousands did. I´m told this is done at pop concerts which I last attended 60 years ago when we didn´t even have a telephone at home. Then in pitch darkness the Red Hot Chili Peppers gave a mediocre rendition of the Scottish folk song “Loch Lomond” although they were helped by the whole crowd which sang along lustily. The Proclaimers classic hit was also played while a psychedelic display raged around, interspersed with canons/fireworks exploding at regular intervals. Then, just as we were expecting the Rolling Stones or Justin Bieber to appear, two teams ran on to the pitch and it seemed a rugby game was planned. A poor version of the normally moving South African anthem blared out and then we had “Flower of Scotland” with it seemed all 60,000 of those present belting it out. No royal presentations these days and the game was on.
This was what we had come to see, but for me it was almost impossible. My eyesight is not what it was, but I am told by others around me with better vision that only tiny players could be discerned in the distance. I watched the match on one of the big screens at each end of the ground. But there were further problems. Beer sales mean that spectators are up and down throughout the match to purchase and to relieve themselves. Many stand up every time Scotland approaches the opposition line, quite often on the day, even blocking the big screens. I saw nothing of the Scottish tries and very little of anything else as a screen of bodies appeared every few minutes.
What with a battle to get into the ground and a battle to get out again it took us 4 ½ hours to get back and forward to our hotel about three miles away for the 2×40” game.
And the cost of the tickets? 1.200:- each. Was it worth it? Certainly not. I´m sure the youngsters had a great time, but it would have been better for my wife and I to have bought a small TV for the price of our two tickets and to watch rugby at home for the rest of our natural lives.