How much rugby is too much rugby?
Paul Erskine is finding out. He has tickets for 36 of the 48 World Cup matches in Japan, and is determined to set an official Guinness World Record. Because apparently that’s a thing – most matches attended at a Rugby World Cup by an individual.
A 54-year-old coal industry executive who traveled to Japan from South Africa, Erskine is taking it seriously. This feat is two years and about $33,000 in the making.
Wearing a custom jersey promoting his ambitious record bid, and riding a train to the City of Toyota Stadium near Nagoya to see Wales play Georgia, Erskine explained that it’s actually quite a process to make the record official.
For starters, he had to register his attempt three months prior to the tournament.
Then, to prove his attendance at each of the 36 matches, Erskine is required to provide a ticket stub, photographic evidence that he was present for the pre-game national anthems, signatures from two witnesses, and detailed notes about how he got to the stadium.
“People can lie,” he says. “They could win (the record) by one ticket or two tickets. But, physically, how could you get from A to B?”
At the end of the tournament, he’ll compile his data and send it in to Guinness. And after all this, if he’s ultimately triumphant, he’ll get … nothing.
Erskine laughs and explains that maybe he’ll impress his kids. “They’ll say, ‘That’s my dad.’”
The South African will be in Japan for 42 days. On Thursday he was in Kobe watching England beat the USA and he will be in Yokohoma for the World Cup final on November.
Despite the number of games he has to cram in, Erksine isn’t worried he’s going to miss one. “Japan Railways doesn’t have delays,” says the South African.
He’s living out of a small backpack and is traveling light. Two of everything. But no razors. He’s refusing to shave. Because why not.
Back home in November, bearded and travel weary, he’ll only have to answer to his wife. And that shouldn’t be a problem. “She’s used to it,” quips Erskine.
This isn’t the first time Erskine has ventured off on a wild adventure.
In 2011 he competed in the Mongol Derby, celebrated as the world’s longest endurance horse race.
It’s a grueling 10-day, 1,000 kilometer journey through the Mongolian steppe following the route of an ancient postal messaging system developed by Genghis Khan.
For animal safety, riders are required to change horses every 40km. Human safety is less a concern. And many participants, like Erskine, never even finish the race.
So, yeah. That kind of adventuring. Climbing tall mountains. Diving deep seas. And seeing the far reaches of the planet as he checks things off his non-traditional bucket list.
Of course, watching rugby, drinking cider, and sleeping in hotels won’t be quite as physically taxing as 10 days in the saddle.
But seeing 36 matches during the course of one tournament is still something. And if all goes according to plan, Erskine will be in the Guinness Book of World Records.
And he’ll finally know (if at all) how much rugby is too much rugby.
Hopefully his kids will be impressed.