This weekend started with the second of Jen’s races. It was a half-marathon this time at Hartbeespoort and with a 6.20am start we spent the night before in a hotel near to the start line.
The early morning melee seemed a bit chaotic to me with 50k, 10k and 5k races all taking place in addition to the half marathon. To make matters worse, lots of runners arrived late and were forced to fight their way through the people lining up for the next race just to make the start line. I know that there will be people who have put a lot of time and effort into organising the event but it seemed to me that the best solution would be to have four separate events spread over the year. People could even run all four races that way.
Anyway, once the half marathon was underway I retired to MacDonalds to read the paper before returning to the finish to see Jen record a personal best time.
Once the race was over we headed off to Pilanesberg National Park. The highlight of the first day was watching a couple of jackals feeding on a bird at one of the lakes. They didn’t want to share, meaning that the dominant one spent as much time chasing away the other one as it did eating his dinner.
The second jackal had just started eating when a group of elephants drinking nearby decided that they’d rather the jackal wasn’t there and by advancing in a tightly packed group, chased it away. The jackal wasn’t prepared to leave the bird though and backed away to the required distance pulling the carcass with it.
Next morning at the same lake we spent some time watching baboons climbing a tree and then jumping into the water. Some were happy to be doing it just for the fun of the splash whilst some were trying to push others into the water. There would be the odd chase or fight but it was mostly just leaping into the lake for the fun of it. I half expected one of them to shout “Geronimo“ on the way in.
On the way back home from Pilanesberg we called in at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium for the Nedbank Cup last sixteen game between Platinum Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns. It’s a ground that I’d been to before, for a game between New Zealand and Slovakia in the 2010 World Cup, but oddly I didn’t realise this until afterwards.
In fact, I spent the game wondering why the ground I was in hadn’t been used for the World Cup when it looked so similar to the nearby stadium with the almost identical name that I falsely recalled from five years ago. In my defence we did approach it from a different direction and sat in other areas of the stands, but even so. Maybe it’s old age.
We parked on a field a couple of hundred yards away which was filling up with Sundowns fans. There wasn’t much in the way of security and with our weekend bags visible in the back of the car I wasn’t all that confident that they would still be there when we got back.
We were thoroughly searched on the way in and ended up two bottles of coke and a chocolate bar down. What’s the point of taking a chocolate bar from someone? Would they do it to a small child?
There were still ten minutes to kick-off when we took our seats in the middle tier of the main stand. At that stage there were probably more fans outside than there were in the stadium. Nobody, except us, ever seems in a hurry to get into games over here and there were still people turning up well into the second half. We saw a group of kids who had been in the parking field when we arrived finally reach their seats twenty minutes in. Perhaps they’d been arguing over having their chocolate confiscated.
The Sundowns fans were congregated opposite us and made up the majority of the three or four thousand crowd. They made plenty of noise though, keeping up the singing all game.
The Platinum Stars support was harder to spot. They had a few fans up near us, but there were as many Chiefs and Pirates shirts as their own. It was only on the twenty five minute mark when their brass band turned up that the home fans started to get behind their team.
We changed seats for the second half, braving the risk of rain to sit further round in the open section. When the rain eventually arrived we nipped downstairs and took up seats in the back row of the lower tier, under the overhang. That’s one of the advantages of small crowds.
And the game? Well, Sundowns looked the better side. They always do look the better side in those Brazil strips. They took the lead on the half hour before Stars levelled close to half-time. With the prospect of extra time looming, Sundowns settled matters with two goals in the last few minutes.
Chiefs and Pirates both went out of the competition the previous day and Sundowns will no doubt fancy their chances of picking up the cup.