Excited fans of England and South Africa are gathering in bars, pubs and community centres around the UK to watch the tense Rugby World Cup semi-final between the two nations.England secured their spot in the final four after overcoming Fiji 30-24 in a close-run quarter-final in Marseille, while South Africa narrowly defeated the hosts – and erstwhile favourites – France last weekend, 29-28.
Thousands of fans arrived in Paris on Saturday, where they started trickling into cafes and bars from early in the morning. Some 20,000 supporters are expected at the Stade de France stadium, despite England being seen as underdogs in a match against the favourites to win.
Fans will also encounter a vast security operation in place, with tensions running high due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, and France on maximum terror alert following the killing of a school teacher by a suspected terrorist suspect a week ago, and multiple bomb alerts. The Palace of Versailles, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower have all been shut down at various times over the past week because of false warnings.
In England, fans are gathering in pubs and bars around the country, where hundreds are showing the match, which kicks off at 8pm. Big screens are in place at some community venues, such as Ashton Gate, the stadium for Bristol City, which is hosting a viewing party in its bar. The football club is expecting demand to be so high that it will require fans coming to watch the team’s afternoon match against Coventry City to purchase another ticket.
Springboks supporters are also expected to be out in force on Saturday. The UK has one of the largest South African diasporas in the world, and there were more than 200,000 South African-born nationals living in the UK, according to the 2021 census, with many concentrated in the south-west of London.
The London borough of Wandsworth has the highest number of South Africans – estimated at 6,000. Although it is not an official supporters venue, one of the borough’s most popular pubs for viewing rugby matches, the Alma, has posted a picture on social media of a man in a Springboks shirt next to its match schedule.
A big Springboks supporters’ party is taking place at the Redback bar in Fulham and is promising an “electric atmosphere and unforgettable rugby experience”.In the meantime, sports fans are gearing up to the big match with another clash between the two countries – South Africa and England are also facing off in the Cricket World Cup during the afternoon.