Inside defending champions South Africa’s Rugby World Cup training base

South Africa’s captain Siya Kolisi and Eben Etzebeth arrive in Toulon

In a realm of rugby royalty, the current kings of the world are hard at work trying to defend their crown. Wander the streets of Toulon over the next few weeks and you might just spy a Springbok or two, with the reigning champions, South Africa, making the town their home as they bid for back-to-back wins at this Rugby World Cup.

It is a decade since the millions of French businessman Mourad Boudjellal powered Toulon to the first of three consecutive Heineken Cup crowns, a side of stars led by Jonny Wilkinson at fly half altering the landscape of European rugby. The trophy-laden days of those Galacticos are mostly at an end, but this remains a famous rugby town, and a remodelled Toulon side secured the second tier Challenge Cup in Dublin in May

Nestled at the western edge of the Cote d’Azur, the Stade Mayol is just a stone’s throw from the harbour where yachts intermingle with more menacing vessels from the naval base next door. Chat to any long-standing restaurateur, and there are plenty to talk to, and they will regale with tale of the greats – and with most all too aware the Springboks are nearby, it’s not long until Bakkies Botha, Juan Smith or Bryan Habana get a mention.

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