For those who read the title and thought that this was going to help you pick up local lovelies, you're going to be sadly disappointed, as probably the only way that you're going to score with a maiden (or any other woman) at The Wanderers is with a cricket bat!
The Wanderers is located in the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg, and is the Johannesburg venue for both provincial and 'test' (international) cricket matches.
Cricket seems to be an enormous source of bewilderment for those who are not priveleged to hail from non-cricket playing nations, so let me try to explain the basics. Cricket comes in many forms, from the three, four and five day games (which, believe it or not, often end in a draw), to the more popular one day format (where you are at least guaranteed a result after a mere day): call me a purist, but I personally draw the line at the 20 over aside Twenty20 format, which I consider to be little more than 'hit and giggle'. Cricket has a fiendishly complex set of rules that make even rugby seem easily comprehensible: try explaining the Duckworth-Lewis method of determining a result for a match interrupted by rain to a novice or - even more challenging - try justifying D-L to an irate fan whose team have just falled foul of this method!
It's fair to say that cricket is definitely an acquired taste, after which it becomes highly addictive! Its popularity is almost exclusively restricted to Commonwealth nations (although the Irish and Dutch are cricketing minnows who have put up a creditable showing in the recent World Cup) - the heavyweight nations being Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India (the world champions at the time of writing), Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England. Indeed, I have a pet theory that a thirsty traveller can only rely on getting a decent cup of tea in countries who play cricket at a test (international) level!
Cricket is, above all, a game of strategy and once you get your head around the rules, it is utterly enthralling ... the downside is that this takes the average person about a decade! The good news is that you don't have to understand cricket to enjoy it, and attending a cricket game is a deeply relaxing experience, especially if it's one of the three, four or five day games. Unlike other more high energy, limited duration sports, frenetic action in cricket comes in short bursts (if at all) which allows you to get on with the serious business of sitting outdoors amid pleasant surroundings and in good company, keeping half an eye on the 'action' whilst chatting to your mates over a few beers.
A note for families: like rugby, cricket is a family game, and one of the most heartening aspects of attending a cricket match is to see stands full of fathers and sons (and often even mothers and daughters). Crowd violence at a cricket match is unheard of, so if the weather is nice, this is a laid back, affordable and very South African way to while away a lazy day. However, bear in mind that cricket is a long game and that even the covered stands are not in the shade all day, so go equipped with a hat and plenty of sunblock!
P.S. 'To bowl a maiden over' is cricket parlance for the highly desirable achievement of bowling an 'over' - six consecutive balls - from which your opposition does not manage to score a single run. Basking in the limelight of your achievement and scoring with the local maidens thereafter is entirely optional ...
South Africans are fanatical about sport (in my experience, only Aussies come close in terms of their sports obsession), and among white South Africans, rugby is not a sport, but a religion! Until I moved to South Africa, I couldn't see the logic behind the sports boycott which was imposed on South Africa in the 1980s and 90s ... and once I was here, I realised how profoundly hurt white South Africans were that nobody would play games with them!
So, the time has come to write about one of my consuming passions: rugby! I have been putting off writing this tip forever, because I know that it will necessitate an explanation of one of the most complex (and constantly evolving) sets of sporting rules ever developed, but anyway, let's give it a whirl.
Rugby is a fairly recent game, and apparently came into being in 1823 when a schoolboy playing football (soccer) decided to pick up the ball and run with it: the lad in question was William Webb-Ellis (after whom the rugby World Cup trophy is named), and the school he attended was Rugby, hence the name. Actually, subsequent research indicates that this is likely to be an urban legend, but it's a good yarn nonetheless! In fact rugby shares many features in common with Gaelic football in terms of using an oval ball, allowing the ball to be played with hands as well as feet and using an 'H' shaped set of posts, as well as having 15 players per team.
These days, there are two main forms of rugby: rugby union and rugby league (to my mind, 'rugby lite', as it has removed many of the complexities such as scrummaging, and about which I will say no more). Rugby union - which is what I am going to concentrate on - is the more popular game, and also has a shorter '7 a side' tournament format (best known for the annual Hong Kong Sevens tournament, a drinkfest of note).
Certain things about rugby don't make sense. For a start, although the objective is to run and and ground the ball over the 'try' line of the opposition, it's forbidden to throw the ball forward (points can also be scored by kicking between the two upright posts above a cross bar). And we're not even going to begin to discuss why the man mountain wearing the No.2 shirt is habitually referred to as the ‘hooker' ...
Rugby is also unique for its 'scrum' formation, where eight beefy lads from each side but shoulders and heads in an aggressive 'group hug' into whose heart the ball is then placed: on average, the 'pack' from each side weighs in at over 850kg (about 2,000 pounds in old money), so the resultant forces exerted as they push against each other are extraordinary - in fact, this is one of the reasons why neck injuries are so common in rugby, and as a result, scrumming is not allowed in the junior format of the game.
I would venture that you can't come to South Africa in the rugby season (roughly February to September) and not watch a rugby match - preferably live, or, failing that on a TV (most pubs and bars would have big screens). So, why would you want to? Well, for me, the game's greatest attraction is that it's a fast moving and exciting sport which combines immense skill with sheer brute force, and (unlike soccer, where goals are few and far between and draws are fairly common), the teams score often during a match. It is also the ultimate team sport, particularly among the pack of eight players who comprise the scrum, an entity which almost has a life of its own. And although rugby is an incredibly physical sport, it's a surprisingly disciplined game in which the ref's word is regarded as gospel and no dissent is tolerated. Lastly, rugby is a game where the violence is solely confined to the pitch, and the crowd usually contains a heartwarmingly high proportion of families!
In short, attending a rugby match during your time in South Africa is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon - even if you have little understanding of the rules - as the atmosphere is very congenial and the ticket prices are very reasonable by international standards. Tourists are most likely to be tempted to attend matches at Coca Cola (formerly Ellis) Park in Johannesburg, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, Newlands in Cape Town and at ABSA stadium (formerly Kings Park) in Durban. Just be aware that tickets for major games (such as test matches) sell out quickly, so check the website below for availability.
In terms of 'who's who' in the rugby universe, the Big Five are the All Blacks (New Zealand), the Springboks (South Africa), the Wallabies (Australia), France and England. The Welsh have a phenomenal rugby tradition and dominated international ('test') rugby in the 1970s - but have never again reached the same heady heights - and the Irish and Scots also have creditable teams. The Southern Hemisphere teams compete in the Tri Nations (expanding in 2012 to include Argentina), whereas the major European teams (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy) battle it out for honours in the Six Nations tournament. Then there are the unexpected outliers: the Namibians, Romanians, various Pacific island teams (Samoa, Tonga and Fiji are excellent teams, especially in the 7 a side format) and even the Georgians!
As a general rule of thumb - and although it pains me to admit it - the New Zealanders are usually the best team in the world at any given point in time, and consequently the most hated (rugby fans will often tell you that they support their home team, followed by any team that's playing the All Blacks!). Although rugby is usually associated with strapping white Afrikaaner farmboys the size of an ox, it may come as a surprise to learn there is in fact a long and proud rugby playing tradition in the Coloured community, particularly in the Griqualand region of the Northern Cape. There are an increasing number of black players, and in terms of racial transformation, rugby has made much bigger strides than, for example, cricket.
If you'd like an insight into how significant rugby is to the South African psyche, watch the excellent movie 'Invictus' for a perspective on how the canny Mandela used the 1995 World Cup in South Africa (which, of course, we won at Ellis Park stadium, pictured above) to play a key role in his nationbuilding initiative during the early days of democracy.
There are times when you're travelling that you need to provide your child (grownup or otherwise) with an opportunity to let off steam whilst you recharge your batteries for a couple of hours. If this sounds like you - or if you are a skateboarding enthusiast (for which I wouldn't begin to know the technical name) - then Boogaloo's skateboard park at the Brightwater Commons complex in Randburg might well be the place for you.
This is the only skateboard venue that I know about in Johannesburg, and one that I am eyeing with increasing interest as my small son's fixation with the skateboard he got for his birthday continues unabated. I have no idea what the discerning consumer looks for in a skateboard park, but to the uninitiated parent, it appears well constructed, clean and actively managed, with good access control, and the kids there seem to be having a whale of a time.
For the supervising parent, the Brightwater Complex offers a range of diversions. It's a complex that has struggled to really establish its identity and isn't really sure whether it wants to be a shopping mall or an entertainment complex, but within an easy stroll of the skateboard park, you can take your pick of a dozen or so restaurants (from standard pizza and steakhouse options to more interesting Mediterranean fare). Alternatively, you could take yourself off to the Nu Metro movie complex (which has half a dozen cinemas) or just laze around on the lawns or idly watch the fish in the landscaped 'river' that cuts through the Commons. Or go shopping: there is a medium sized Woolworths and a large Pick'n'Pay supermarket as well as a range of chain store outlets and a small (and to my mind, rather uninspiring) craft market.
At the time of writing (May 2011), Boogaloo's operating hours were as follows:
Mondays-Fridays: 9am - 6pm
Saturdays: 8am - 6pm
Sundays / Holidays: 9am - 3pm
At the time of wiring (June 2011), the cost of admission was R30. A helmet is compulsory (and can be hired for R20), and skateboards can also be hired for R50.
For those who weren't lucky enough to be here for the World Cup 2010 (or didn't manage to get tickets to the games) the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust is offering a walking tour of Soccer City (now known as FNB Stadium), which was the venue for the opening match and final of the tournament on Saturday 14 November. I was there for the Germany vs Ghana group game, and can attest to the fact that it is a stunning structure and arguably one of the most beautiful sports stadia in the world!
The blurb from the website goes as follows:
"For those who weren’t lucky enough to see a match during the World Cup this is a most exciting outing. The stadium has its own extraordinary history. It was here Nelson Mandela was welcomed home to Jo’burg and to his place in history. Chris Hani’s funeral was held here as South Africa held its breath and the miracle happened. Then came the World Cup and a stadium which glittered in the evening light, ringing to the blast of the vuvuzelas in the biggest venue of them all.
"You don’t have to like soccer or rugby to be proud of this achievement. The guide is provided by the FNB Stadium.
MEET : Pascale Petit
TIME : 13h30 – PLEASE NOTE EARLY STARTING TIME
PARK : FNB Stadium
DURATION : Approximately one hours
COST : R110.00 includes entrance fee of R80.00 per person
MAX No : 30"
In November every year, 27000 cyclists take to the Joburg roads and ride 94.7 very tough kilometres. The race is sponsored by a local radio station, Highveld Radio, whose broadcast frequency is 94.7 MHz, as well as Pick 'n Pay, a national supermarket chain.
The route takes you from Woodmead onto the highway and a gradual uphill into the centre of town past the urban forest of Johannesburg's purple Jacaranda trees, to the highest point at the Nelson Mandela Bridge. Then you zoom downhill past the pink Westcliff hotel, the Zoo and the Zoo Lake, and then uphill again through the suburb of Randburg and on to Bryanston and Fourways. Here it starts to get a little more rural (although it can hardly be classified as such) and you have a great downhill and then a hectic uphill towards Honeydew. You drive past the Lion Park (no worries - the lions will be sleeping since it will be hot) and then back onto a highway where it is mostly uphill to the Diepsloot squatter camp. Then back to the finish, and believe me as you come over the hill just before the Kyalami Race Track, the feeling of "wow I've done it" is fantastic.
If you are a pro, or a seeded rider you will start earlier than unseeded riders. There are phased starts from 05h30 till 10h30, which puts you into the heat of the day. Complete within 6 hours to get a medal.
Entries open months before the event, and normally close later for international entries than they do for local cyclists. It is worth contacting the event organisers to investigate.
Some additional events have recently been introduced: a children's cycle challenge (reduced km), and a mountain bike race.
The funds raised benefit charity, including a creche set up for children of homeless people. These homeless people are drawn into a network that produces a newspaper that they sell at street corners, called "Homeless Talk". The homeless people are the journalists as well as the newspaper vendors and keep some of their profits.
Equipment: Although this is a road race, there are many thousands who cycle with mountain bikes. No helmet no ride.
Well this JNB soccer city , many International and local soccer matches is being played here. This Stadium takes 95 000 people and trust me , full capacity is easy reached in both International and local games.
This is 1 of the Stadiums to be used for the 2010 soccer world cup.
Ellis Park Staduim is well known for the Rugby World Final where South Africa beat the all Blacks.
This Staduim host both international and local Rugby and Soccer Matches. I have watched both Manchester United and Arsenals battle it out at this staduim.
The Stadium is situated east of the Johannesburg City Centre in the Ellis Park Precinct which incorporates Ellis Park Stadium and the Standard Bank Arena, Ellis Park Tennis Stadium and world class Ellis Park Swimming Pool.
The Johannesburg Stadium complex covers an area of 37 000m2 incorporating the Stadium and warm up track, parking and pedestrian areas.
It seats 37 500 spectators for sporting events and up to 65 000 for concerts.
The unique design of the Stadium enables spectators to be close to all activities on the field and track, whilst excellent site lines gives superb viewing form all the Stadium's seating.
The Stadium can be utilised for multipurpose events such as boxing, wrestling, exhibitions, sporting spectacles, banquets, arts and culture festivals and many community events.
The Johannesburg Stadium housed many events of fame up to this stage and we would like to build fort on this. Events like the Tina Turner, U2, Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, the Nelson Mandela 80th Birthday Bash and the Billy Graham Service are some of the successful events staged.
The Stadium are one of the most modern Athletic Stadia in Africa. It hosted various big athletic events like the All Africa Games of 1999.
The Pick ’n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge, taking place on Sunday, 21 November, is on track to become the world’s largest timed mass participation cycling event. Joburg’s world-renowned race has already drawn a record number of more than 24 000 entrants.
The 94.7km race will start in Woodmead, next to Megawatt Park, run through Houghton Estate, over the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein, up Jan Smuts Avenue, along Hans Strijdom Drive, through Diepsloot and finish at the AA Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Midrand.
This is a tough race so come prepared. Its also Joburgs safest race.
Equipment: Bicycle and cycling equipment.
the 2003 world cup finals is on,
will Tendulkaar come to the rescue and break the record books to allow India to beat Auustralia ??
Equipment: live ball by ball on the internet
and remember your Biltong and Castle or Lion in the cans
Soccer City was upgraded for the 2010 World Cup and is now one of the largest, most modern stadiums in the world. It is the largest in all of Africa, with a capacity of around 95,000.
The stadium is the main home of the South African national team, as well as both local premier league clubs, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. Soccer City also hosts some international rugby games as well as concerts.
Besides being so massive, the stadium looks really cool too. It was built to resemble a calabash.
With such a large capacity, securing a ticket to any event shouldn't be an issue, so I would definitely recommend taking in the atmosphere at this great stadium.
Turning back the clock, obviously before Television and the Internet,
the weekly comics were my access to UK Football. Teams that come to mind, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackpool, Preston North End, Blackburn Rover, Hearts, Dundee United, Totterham Hotspurs.
Later came the Manchester United and M. City, The we heard about the Stanley Matthews, Pele, Eusebio and many more.
For many who are not so familiar with the game, instead of getting a copy of the Cilliers or Brittanica Encyclopaedias, click on Wikipedia and for more Skills insights or into the various UK Leagues and Championships
Equipment: essentially a pair of Boots and a regulation round Ball
Ellis Park and rugby are synonymous. The only time when rugby was not played at Ellis Park also called Coca-Cola Park was during 1980 and 1981 when the new stadium was under construction.
In addition to this Stadium will be one of the stadiums hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup Matches. So if you cant visit it at the time of world cup try visiting it some time else..
In case you want to buy tickets to any of the rugby or Soccer events here try visiting their website at www.ellispark.co.za or if you want to buy world cup tickets then visit www.WorldFootballTravel.com
Equipment: Your fan gear
The Bryanston Country Club
Situated on Bryanston Drive, in Bryanston, Johannesburg Northern Suburbs.
Equipment: Equipment is available from most golf clubs in South Africa.
The Pro shop also has professional golfers on sight for lessons.
Caddies are always available as well as golf buggies.
In November of each year, the day before the 94.7 Cycle Challenge (another tip - 27000 cyclists in 2007 and 94.7 km) there is the Children's Cycle Challenge. There are races for each age group starting from as young as 2 or 3 (the children go round a track on scooters, or bicycles with training wheels) to 15 (where they can do a distance of 16km). In the younger groups, the parents get issued with entry numbers the same as their children and chaperone their kids around the track.
In 2007, it was held at the Waterfall Equestrian Estate on flat dirt roads, and 4000 children entered. Phil Liggett was one of the commentators - he was at the start line. For those people who watch the Tour de France, Phil Liggett's voice is synonomous with the English commentary that gets beamed around the world. I love the fact that Pick n' Pay and Highveld Radio (the race sponsors) take children seriously!
Entries are done electronically on the web site before the time, but if there is space, they accept late entries at the Expo the day before the event. The venue of the Expo changes frequently but is advertised on the web site.
Equipment: Bicycle. No helmet no ride. Plenty of sunscreen. Water beforehand (although water and other drinks are supplied during and after the race). Attitude.