Archive for September, 2014

Witbank Spurs v Cape Town All Stars, Sunday 31st August 2014, 3pm

September 28, 2014

0 - opening shot

I’d been meaning to get along to watch Witbank Spurs all of last season, but other stuff always seemed to crop up whenever they had a game. However, with the new National First Division season just a week old, a spare afternoon coincided with their opening home fixture.

Witbank normally play their games in Witbank. No surprise there really. This one though was another half an hour away along the N4 at the Themba Senemba stadium in Middelburg. I did wonder if the change of venue was a consequence of the service delivery protests that have been taking place in Witbank lately.

Apparently if the electricity goes off for a while, the appropriate response from the residents is to burn the local library down. That’ll show ‘em. If that doesn’t have the required impact you then escalate matters by setting fire to a few of your neighbours as well. Maybe they should march on the local power station when the library doesn’t have the latest Jeffrey Archer in.

Main Stand.

Main Stand.

The sat nav got me to the ground about ten minutes before kick-off. It looked to be a fairly poor area around the stadium, but I’ve been to worse. On the plus side, I didn’t get a call from the security manager at work asking what the hell I was doing there. His lack of interest boded well.

It was fifteen rand admission and that entitled me to take my car inside too and park it by the edge of the pitch. Very handy, as it meant I could keep an eye on it during the game. It’s a pity that they don’t have that option at Anfield to save me from having to pay protection money to eight year old scouse kids.

Mine's the Corolla.

Mine’s the Corolla.

Although I could have watched the game from my car I made my way around to the stand on the opposite side of the pitch. There weren’t any seats but the steel structure was marginally more comfortable that the usual concrete floor.

There were around thirty people sat in the stand with another fifty or so dotted around the remaining sides of the pitch. I had a chat with a couple of locals who thought the organisation was a bit shambolic. It seemed pretty good to me, although I suppose I’m comparing it with the likes of Korea, where lower league games are often moved from one ground to another with no notification.

View from the Main Stand.

View from the Main Stand.

Witbank were playing in Argentina strips, whilst visitors Cape Town All-stars were in green. It had only been a month since I’d watched Cape Town gain promotion from the Second Division and their three-week close season seemed a little unfair on them.

The home side opened the scoring early on with a cracking goal from  right-winger Themba. The ball fell to him on the edge of the box and he volleyed it home via the underside of the bar.

Cape Town had a couple of chances to level before the break but a lack of composure in front of goal meant that they went in behind at half-time.

Cape Town on the attack.

Cape Town on the attack.

Witbank doubled their lead not long into the second half with another shot from distance, this time from  Ngobe, who celebrated with a double somersault. The half-arsed effort from the keeper to stop it earned him a few minutes of derision from the home crowd.

I’d noticed that the fourth official had a FIFA badge on his shirt and tracksuit. I bet not many FIFA refs in England spend their Sunday afternoons holding up the substitutions board at a game of a similar standard to Northern League.

Maradona makes his appearance.

Maradona makes his appearance.

Witbank seemed the bigger of the two sides, certainly at the back anyway, and with an even larger fella sat in front of the centre-halves they made life difficult for Cape Town. There were still cars coming into the ground as the game drew to a close with the home side secure in their two goal advantage.

So, that was it for the temporary Middelburg location and a stadium that I doubt I’d have got to if the Witbank residents hadn’t been so hasty with their petrol cans and lighters. Hopefully they will resist the urge to burn their local stadium to the ground and I’ll be able to see a game there at some point too.



Vaal Horse Racing, Saturday 30th August 2014

September 18, 2014

vaal races

I’ve been making a bit of progress in my quest to get around all of the South African racecourses. There’s only eleven, so it’s not too onerous a task, and at the weekend we ticked off number four, Vaal.

Vaal is a couple of hours away from our house in Bronkhorstspruit and it was the second time in a week that we’d headed down that way. The previous weekend had been spent on the Vaal River, driving a boat around. We’d slept on it too, dropping anchor in the middle of nowhere on the first night and then tying it to the jetty of a restaurant on the second evening.

Tying it to reeds wasn't too successful.

Tying it to reeds wasn’t too successful.

It was quite a relaxing way to spend a couple of days, especially as we didn’t fall overboard once in the whole weekend. We had otters swimming up to the boat and then a carp feeding at the surface on bread that I’d thrown in for the ducks. There were also a few deer of some sort popping down to the riverbank in the early morning for a drink.

I'd guess at a 'big-horned waterbok'.

I’d guess at a ‘big-horned waterbok’.

This weekend we stayed in a hotel, which was less interesting, but better for not drowning and handier for the track . I’d had the date marked on my ‘to-do‘ spreadsheet for a while, mainly because there only looks to be a couple of weekend race meetings at Vaal each year.

The Main Stand.

The Main Stand.

As with most of the South African racecourses, admission was free. There wasn’t much of a crowd, maybe fifty or so sat in the sunshine outside and perhaps a hundred in the four storey building by the finishing post.

In front of the Main Stand.

In front of the Main Stand.

We made our way up to the Members Lounge where we were able to secure a table complete with a telly for watching races from Turffontein and Sandown. I doubt we’d have got anywhere near the lounge on busier days but on this occasion it all worked out very well.

Inside the Members Lounge.

Inside the Members Lounge.

We’d timed things nicely for the food too, with a three course meal on offer for seven quid. The starters were nothing special but there was an outside braai that served beef, pork and lamb followed by old school sponge pudding and custard. I was happy enough with that.

Outside for the food.

Outside for the food.

The racing was on the sand track, which I tend to associate with lower grade horses. Most of the ones that we backed certainly seemed lower grade, or at least lower than the other horses in their races. We had a couple of winners to offset the donkeys though and didn’t finish too far down on the day.

Overall it was another good afternoon out, particularly as we were able to take advantage of the Members facilities without any questions being asked. Maybe we’ll try the owners and trainers area next time.


Polo, Sunday 17th August 2014

September 16, 2014

Prince of wales polo cup 1

I’d never been to a polo match before. The nearest that I’ve got is watching Pretty Woman on the telly and I suppose that all I learned from seeing that film was that if you take a hooker with you, then you shouldn’t tell any of your mates.

Prince Charles used to play, as did his sons. They probably still do. I think the ex-drummer from The Who that wasn’t Keith Moon has the odd game. Really though, that’s about the full extent of my knowledge.

Still, I’m keen to see new stuff and so Jen and I had a drive along to the Waterfall Polo Club in Johannesburg to see the final day’s play in the Prince of Wales Cup.

The poshest bit.

The poshest bit.

There was a posh part with concierge service for around a hundred quid a head and a peasant’s section at a tenner a car. Racecourses used to have ‘car admission‘, usually to the centre of the course, maybe they still do. I remember taking my kids to the Grand National about twenty years ago and parking in the centre of the course. I’m fairly sure you can’t do that these days.

Anyway, as there was no way I was going to pay a couple of hundred quid to get in, we went in the cheap bit. There were two matches scheduled. I think that we started off with a third/fourth place play-off and then finished up with the final but I’m not certain.

Third and Fourth place play-off. Maybe.

Third and Fourth place play-off. Maybe.

As far as the rules go, it’s four blokes on each side with the pitch about twice the size of  that used for football. For those of you familiar with the term, they have fly goalie. Or is it rush goalie? It’s a while since I was a kid, but my recollection is that ‘fly‘ meant that your keeper could advance upfield whilst the other goalie had to stay between the sticks. This was usually implemented when one team was a man short.

‘Rush‘ goalie, on the other hand, generally came about when nobody fancied being in goal and the nearest player to the goal line would be allowed to use his hands.

I suppose that what we had at the polo didn’t actually fall into either category as it was ‘no goalie‘. I don’t remember ever playing that variation as a kid. Although if we’d had horses perhaps it would have all been different.

Play lasts for four seven minute ‘chukkas‘ and you are allowed a fresh horse as often as you like. That’s about it really. Occasionally a team got a free-kick, or free-hit I suppose, but I’ve no idea what the offences were.

What it's really all about.

What it’s really all about.

Most of the crowd seemed to have brought elaborate picnics. Fair enough, I suppose, but not necessary as there were a few top quality food stalls. I turned down a paella for a selection of cakes in a box.

I think they've all been before.

I think they’ve all been before.

As to the scores, well I’ve no idea. There was a lad operating the scoreboard but he seemed distracted by his other duties of signalling goals and retrieving the ball and didn’t seem to pay much attention as to which end the goals went into.

A horse would have been better than a ladder.

A horse would have been better than a ladder.

We cleared off half-way through the second game as we’d eaten all of the cakes and there’s a limit to how long I’m prepared to watch horses galloping around if I haven’t had a bet on one of them. I’m sure polo is enjoyable to play, possibly more so for the humans than the horses, but when the best part of the day is the picnic, you might as well move on once you’ve eaten.