- 18 Oct 07, 01:33 PM
Jon Snow does it. Boris Johnson does it. And now we are doing it too.
Strike day on the Metro forced us onto two wheels across Paris today, and what a liberating experience it was.
A thwarted attempt to board the only line alleged to be running dictated a breathless half hour time-trial along the River Seine, to hear from the Springboks for the last time before the big kick-off.
For the princely sum of a single Euro each, we hired the kind of bicycle on which postmen used to wobble through leafy English villages, in days gone by.
On one handlebar, the sort of bell he might have rung to greet the vicar across the green and of course it sported a natty basket.
I felt remarkably badly equipped to deal with the notoriously aggressive and unpredictable Parisian traffic. But I was in safe hands.
Leading the way through the juggernauts, weaving between the scowling van drivers was BBC Television’s face of cycling Jill Douglas.
Shades on, blonde hair billowing, she hurtled into the fray with the kind of relish normally associated with Schalk Burger at a ruck full of Englishmen.
I pedalled furiously in her wake. Nothing would prevent us reaching Bercy and the South Africans’ adopted home.
Miraculously only five minutes late, we breezed into the reception at the team hotel, to hear the less than startling news that England’s opposition had named an unchanged team.
Happily the players were in talkative mood, and we learned that the SA captain John Smit was actually present at Ellis Park in 1995, watching the Boks beat New Zealand to send the country into collective delirium.
“If someone had said to me 12 years later I would be captaining my country in another World Cup final, I’d have just laughed at them” he said.
And incidentally, he can’t wait to meet Mark Regan again. After two encounters this summer, Smit said the Bristol hooker had spoken to him more in those matches than his wife had in 10 years. “I’m sure he’ll be full of chat on Saturday” he said with a smile.
Butch James has the task of conducting the South African orchestra in two days time. The fly-half will stand opposite the man who’s been there and done it, but he’s full of respect for Newcastle’s finest.
“Jonny’s awesome” he said. “It’s an honour to play against him, and you can learn so much”.
Drop-goals are not his bag though: “It’s not really my forte, but if need be, I’ll throw one in there… I might go and talk to Joel Stransky and pick his brains.”
Someone who’s already done just that is the precocious centre Francois Steyn, only 20, but brimming with the confidence of a man who’s spent a decade at the top.
He loves the long range shots at the posts - “it’s a natural thing” - and has given it a bit of thought. “I just hope whoever has the chance can snap it over” he said.
Maybe the Boks won’t need to deliver a final coup de grace. Maybe their pack and outstanding line-out will have roasted England up front. Maybe they won’t.
Maybe Bryan Habana will have ripped through the defence to break Jonah Lomu’s World Cup try record for a single World Cup - he is currently level with the All Blacks legend on eight.
Maybe Jason Robinson will finish his extraordinary career with another World Cup final score.
So many maybes. It’s gloriously unpredictable. Much like our bike ride home really.
Alastair Eykyn is a Radio 5 live reporter specialising in rugby union, tennis and hockey. He is covering Ireland at the World Cup and you can see 5 live's full broadcast schedule here.