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South African cycles more than 25,000 miles to Rugby World Cup – then sees his team lose

Ron Rutland was inspired to get in the saddle by friend who died of cancer

A Springboks fan spent more than two years riding his bike in excess of 25,000 miles to get to Saturday’s Rugby World Cup march in Brighton – then saw South Africa suffer a last-gasp defeat in a thrilling match against Japan in the biggest upset in the history of the competition.

Ron Rutland, 41, a former banker who also played amateur rugby, set off from his Cape Town home in April 2013 on a journey that would take him through most of Africa’s countries and much of Europe.

“I was not expecting that. It was the biggest upset in rugby history and it felt like I was watching a movie, I just could not believe it what I had just witnessed,” he said on Twitter.

“I was absolutely gob-smacked. To be such a big fan and come all this way to see that was just surreal.”

But he added: “I realised that I had witness a bit of sporting history so it was a privilege to have been there.

“And when I saw the Japanese fans in tears, I realised how much it meant for them.

He was inspired to do undertake his adventure after his friend Nix “Lettie” Haynes was diagnosed with cancer; after overcoming the disease once, the second time she contracted it proved fatal.

On his blog at, Rutland said: “The decision to undertake this journey is an accumulation of years of reading stories of great modern and past adventurers, of ordinary people doing seemingly extraordinary things, and of imagining great adventures of my own.

“Having travelled and experienced the world considerably, I’ve grown to realise life isn’t about what you own, but what you experience and create, and this all has led me to taking the ‘now or never’ decision to have the courage to live a life true to myself and undertake my own great adventure.”

Supporters listed on his blog include two men who lifted the Web Ellis Trophy for South Africa – Francois Pienaar and John Smits – and fomer British Lions Gavin Hastings and Colin Charvis, who respectively captained Scotland and Wales in the Rugby World Cup.

Charvis, who recently took part in the Race Across America, said: “How far? How many countries? No support vehicles? Solo?

“What an adventure. Hats off to a brave man undertaking a fantastic adventure. As with most epic journeys I’m looking at the details with envy.

“I’m looking forward to following your travels and hopefully getting a feel for the many vistas and cultures of your vast and varied continent.”

While Rutland plans to carry on riding his bike to South Africa’s remaining games, he may be hanging his wheels up – temporarily at least – after their participation in the tournament ends.

“I think I will fly home though,” he explained.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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GerardR | 8 years ago

Ron's team may not have won, but he sure did. Great tribute to his friend.

Edgeley | 8 years ago

it was a great game. And he has had an epic journey. I doff my hat.

Edgeley replied to Edgeley | 8 years ago

Just met him on the way to Birmingham. Nice chap. Seemed not mad.

LarryDavidJr | 8 years ago

Chapeau that man! At least you got to watch it in a nice stadium  1

morseykayak | 8 years ago

Longest travelled fan? Good effort!

djcritchley | 8 years ago

Much respect.

It's the journey that matters and not the destination, fortunately.

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