Platinum Stars v Township Rollers, Saturday 11th July 2015, 10am

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It’s difficult to know sometimes when one season ends and the next one starts. The promotion play-offs from the third tier hadn’t taken place yet so it felt as if it’s still 2014/15. However, with the new South African Premier League season just four weeks away, the Maize Cup certainly had the feel of pre-season about it.

It was a four-team tournament taking place at Moruleng which, by happy coincidence, is very close to Pilanesburg National Park. I’m not one to miss the opportunity of combining a visit to a new stadium with a drive around a national park and so we spent the afternoon in Pilanesburg looking at the wildlife.

Sometimes you see a lot, sometimes you don’t and this had been a fairly quiet day up until late on when half a dozen rhinos ambled past. Rhinos do a lot of ambling, but more often than not they do it out of sight. Or at least out of my sight. On this occasion though we were able to watch them make their way along the edge of a lake, no more than fifty yards ahead of us.

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Prior to the rhinos, I think the most interesting thing we’d seen were some cormorants feeding their young. Or not so young. It seemed scarcely believable that the ‘chicks’ weren’t ready to feed themselves.

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Earlier that day our forty rand tickets had entitled us to watch three games in the same stadium. Two semi finals at 10am and noon respectively, followed by the winners of those games meeting at five o’clock. With Pilanesburg beckoning, we were happy to stay for just the first of those matches, the clash between local Premier League side Platinum Stars and Township Rollers from over the border in Botswana.

Forty rand is generally the minimum pricing for a top-tier game in South Africa and so for those with the staying power the chance to see three games was pretty good value. As a further incentive we were also given a Maize Cup branded beanie and a bag of popcorn each. This almost made up for having our bottles of coke and water confiscated on the way in.

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Moruleng Stadium is very similar to a lot of stadiums in this part of the world, with a single covered stand along one side and an open bowl around the remainder. There’s space for a running track, but it looked as if someone had forgotten to construct it.

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We took up seats in the main stand to take advantage of the shade provided but the arrival of a brass band early in the first half meant that we didn’t spend long in them.

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Rollers, in blue, took the lead after around twenty minutes and then added a second just before the break. They had brought a few hundred fans with them and in the second half we moved to the other side of the stadium on the basis that the fans would be quieter than the band.

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Ten minutes from time Platinum Stars knocked in what I thought at the time was nothing more than a consolation goal. Five minutes later they had another and had forced a draw that had rarely seemed on the cards. The tournament schedule left no room for extra-time and so we went straight to penalties.

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The momentum was with the home side and they won the shoot-out five-four, leaving the Rollers fans to drift out seven hours earlier than they’d been expecting to leave just a few minutes before. A chorus of “Bye Bye Baby” from the home support wouldn’t have gone amiss.

That evening we watched the final on the telly in our nearby hotel bar. I imagine that the Rollers fans will all have been back in Botswana by that time with the complimentary popcorn long gone.

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One Response to “Platinum Stars v Township Rollers, Saturday 11th July 2015, 10am”

  1. Neva Says:

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