'The Springboks are missing plenty of players too and are vulnerable. Let's have no excuses'
We went up Table Mountain. I’m afraid of heights. The rest of the lads piled into cable cars and I got back on the bus. Donncha (O’Callaghan) and Paulie (O’Connell) had to drag me into the cable car and I spent the whole ride to the top sitting on the floor with a coat over my head: my version of blinkers.
Some photographers accompanied us on the trip and there was a photo opportunity at the top.
In my desperation to get into the picture I temporarily suspended my vertigo issues, which earned me a great deal of slagging. We lost the second Test 26-17 and then spent some time with the Springboks in a social environment.
We were no longer rugby players just people and I found them to be great lads.
Schalk Burger was voted IRB Player of the Year that season and I was a bit in awe of him. He turned out to be a lovely guy. He came from a farming background like some of us and we found plenty in common.
Now, back to where this column started.
We were due to fly home the following day and a few of us headed off to a bar next door to the hotel about 2pm. We put our bags on the bus which was leaving for the airport at 5.30. There were 10 or so players staying on, the rest flying home.
After a few drinks myself, Paulie (O’Connell) and (Wally) David Wallace started to debate whether we’d extend our stay in South Africa. We were still undecided when we got on the bus, a state of affairs that didn’t alter a great deal in the airport.
We went to check-in several times only to turn the trolleys around and get into a huddle to discuss staying on.
Eventually in exasperation, Ireland team manager Brian O’Brien said: “lads, for crying out loud will you make up your minds”. We asked him what he’d do in our position and he said he’d stay.
So that settled it.
We surprised our 10 team-mates in Camps Bay, had a brilliant night on the batter and flew home the following day. Several heroes from the night before looked on longingly as we again left for the airport and home.
This time there would be no going back.