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 Supersport Park cricket ground is with a cricket bat!
Supersport Park in Centurion is located in the southern suburbs of Pretoria, just west of the highway that links Johannesburg and Pretoria and the venue for provincial and 'test' (international cricket) matches in Pretoria. If you don't have a car, the stadium will be accessible from the new Gautrain station at Centurion when it opens at the beginning of July 2011.
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. SuperSport Park is particularly family friendly, as much of the seating is on grassy banks which surround parts of the stadium, which are just asking for you to arrive with a blanket and a picnic in tow! 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.
The Holy of Holies for South African rugby fans is Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, home of the Blue Bulls (formerly Northern Transvaal): this also hosts some test (international) matches and was one of the venues for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Of all the South African grounds, Loftus is the one which foreign teams most dread playing at, due to the wildly partisan crowd and the stadium configuration which makes the place feel like a seething cauldron of emotion. Just be mindful that for big matches, tickets are sold out well in advance, so check the website 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!) to play a key role in his nationbuilding initiative during the early days of democracy.
From an aesthetic point of view, a particular attraction of attending a game at Loftus is that you get the chance to see the gorgeous Victor Matfield captain the Bulls ... prime beefcake on the hoof!
Details on the public transport arrangements for the World Cup stadia continue to be issued in drips and drabs. The most comprehensive and user-friendly useful summary I've seen was from Prega Govender in this morrning's Sunday Times - follow this link: http://www.timeslive.co.za/sport/soccer/article477498.ece/How-to-get-there
Please note that private vehicles (including taxis) will NOT be allowed close to the stadia, so if you are planning to travel to the stadia in your own or someone else's vehicle, be prepared for a long walk (and potentially problems finding your taxi pick up after the game).
LOFTUS VERSFELD, PRETORIA
Free Park and Ride/Walk: Spectators will be given a colour-coded arm band to identify the parking zone where they left their car.
On match days, these facilities will open four hours before kickoff.
Transport hub: Pretoria Station and City Hall parking area.
A special long-distance coach service will operate from the City Hall on Paul Kruger Street to host cities such as Nelspruit, Rustenburg, Bloemfontein and Polokwane.
Transport options for those travelling to Pretoria to attend matches: shuttle from/to Joburg and Sandton and special long-distance coaches operating from June 10-27.
For those who don't have tickets to some or all of the games, today's Sunday Times also provides the following update on 'fan fests' (free viewing zones) around the company. Note that in addition to these 'official fan fests', there will also be other fan zones such as the MTN fan zone at Montecasino in Johannesburg, for which entrance will be charged (and where facilities such as parking and food/drink outlets will be more formalised)
Follow this link: http://www.google.co.za/search?hl=en&q=No+tickets%3F+No+problem+at+free+fan+fests+%2B+Karen+van+Rooyen&btnG=Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=
"More than 260000 soccer enthusiasts who cannot attend World Cup games need not worry - they will be accommodated at 10 official "fan fests" around the country. Entrance to these facilities will be free, and fans are encouraged to come early to enjoy the entertainment.
The venues, which will operate on match days, are:
Pretoria's venue,Centurion Cricket Ground, can accommodate 30000 fans. It will be open from 10am. Parking will be available in the vicinity of the stadium.
A very exciting prospect for South Africa is the hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Pretoria is one of the host Cities.
The matches will be played at Loftus Versfeld (see the tip on rugby). This stadium is in the Arcadia area, close to sites like he Union Buildings (see tip) and close to many embassies and consulates. The Sheraton Hotel is one of the jotels in this area.
Every host city in South Africa is busy to prepare for this great event.
Supersport Park is a cricket venue in Centurion. It is home to the Nasua Titans, but many international matches are played here. It is a cery lovely cricket grounf to watch a game, with grass embankments etc.
Usually the atmosphere is great during matches.
South Africans are sports crazy. People in Pretoria love rugby, and is very faithful supporters of the Bulls team. Loftus Versfeld is home to the team. Many international rugby games are also played here.
It also hosts soccer matches.
it's happening now, Tendulkar heading for his Century and a win over Pakista- but it's cricket and surprises happen
BBC coverage is fantastic
>>Last Updated: Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 12:50 GMT
Live: Pakistan v India
Latest: India: 114-2 (14 overs) v Pakistan 273-7
South africans and Preotrians are all avid sports fans.
Centurion Cricket Grounds South of Pretoria is a world standrad gound. seats 20 000 ;
Loftus has witnessed many Blou Bul "Northern Tranvaal" and Springbok rugby dramas/
Equipment: ....'A grass bank often features fans enjoying the traditional South African braii (barbeque) and offers some relief from the intimidating stands that tower over the cricketers. ' ......
RUGBY DERICK THE NEW KICKING SENSATION OF THE BLUE BULLS DOES IT AGAIN AS THE BULLS TOOK ON THE VRYSTAAT IN THE CURRIE CUP COMPETITION ..........................
HE`S TRAILING IN NAAS BOTHAS FOOT STEPS ,BIT YOUNG BUT HE`S GOT THE RIGHT STUFF , THE BOOT THE SKILL AND THE COMITMENT TO THE BULLS GREAT PLAYER
last saterday the bulls played the sharks in alocal derby and they won again beating the sharks 24-16 not too good a game but 4 pionts none the less
the blue bull rugby team are from pretoria they are the 2003 currie cup holders this is south africa`s biggest competion