Day 14: Goodbye South Africa

So there we have it, our tour has finally come to an end. Today is the day we fly home.

We were scheduled to visit the V&A Waterfront mall but our bus drivers recommended we head to Century City mall, a much larger and cheaper mall. We had a good few hours to kill and the majority needed to buy last minute gifts for family and friends. We left the mall just after 3pm but had to wait for Kai P-P, Joe L and Todd R who couldn’t find our exit!

After arriving at the airport and going through security, most of the boys found a seat and took advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Upon boarding, whilst everyone trickled in, Henry T found himself struggling to get on the plane, not because of his bouncer-esque physique but due to a loss of his passport! Fearful of not being allowed to fly, Henry searched his hand luggage profusely but to no avail. With panic building up, Henry’s last ditch attempt to find his passport was a success! Henry patted himself down to feel his passport in his pocket! Disaster averted!

With the boys settled in their seats, our next stop was London.

 

Day 13: Match Day at Velddrif High

We started the day mid-morning to allow the boys just that little extra rest before their matches at Velddrif High School in the afternoon. We went to Langebaan Beach for a light training session, the weather was certainly what the boys were used to, cold, wet and windy.

Shortly after we visited Laguna Mall to stock up on supplies and have a spot of lunch. After the mall, we travelled to Velddrif High School to set up. The boys arrived feeling up for the games ahead but also feeling the effects of a 2 week tour.

In the first game the U16’s started well with strong carries from Mackenzie.S and Charles.B, but it was Velddrif who took their opportunities in the first half and led 12-0 at the break. The boys battled hard at the start of the second half and managed to get themselves back into the game with a penalty try being awarded for repeated infringements by the opposition. Velddrif them scored a try against the run of play, using the great speed they had out wide to regain their lead. This took the stuffing out of us and the effects of tour began to show. The boys did not give up but ultimately fell to a 38-5 defeat.

The next game was for the U17B who were up against a Velddrif invitational side that consisted of a mix of boys from the local schools. Yet again the boys started well but struggled to cope with the blistering pace of the Velddrif backs. Later in the second half RWS did begin to show some resilience with two well worked tries from Todd.R and Joe.L However, we left our resurgence a little late a the game ended 44-14 to Velddrif.

The final game was full of emotion for the U17A with some of the boys playing in their final game for RWS. The boys came firing out the blocks led by Kai.P-P and Scott.M and soon RWS took the lead with Michael.W crashing over the line with his first touch of the ball. Throughout the rest of the first half it was a great contest with both teams fighting hard to get a firm grip on the game. Velddrif responded with a great individual try from their fly half, but this sparked a aggressive reaction from RWS with Dan.R leading the charge. Before half-time RWS were then awarded a penalty try after the opposition played the scrum half at the break down to try and stop a certain try. RWS went in 12-7 up at the break.
The second half saw more of the same from both teams with Kai P-P putting in huge hits in the centre and Henry.K and Reece.M producing excellent carriers to get us on the front foot. Heading into the last 10 minutes the games was very tight with the score 21-19 to Velddrif after Rhys.M scored a superb try to get us back in the game. However, tired bodies, injuries and a missed forward pass saw the momentum swing and the home side taking the victory 40-19.

The boys headed back to the hotel with their heads held high to get ready for post-match hospitality with some of the players from Velddrif High and their Headmistress in attendance. Velddrif opened the evening with a speech from their Headmistress who was extremely grateful of Ravens Wood School coming to her small town to play rugby. After the meal, it was once again Mr Meehan who concluded the evening with tour awards.

The awards for tour are as follows:

Most Improved Player – Liam C
Player of the Tour – Kai P-P
Man of the Tour – Freddie J

 

Day 12: Signal Hill to Langa

Today was an interesting day on my travels. I was allowed to have a lie-in this morning which is a rarity but a nice break from all of the travel. Breakfast was again lovely with a great view of Table Mountain as a backdrop.

Due to maintenance, Table Mountain was not available for a visit so I headed up Signal Hill which is next door. The group had great views of the whole of Cape Town and the surrounding mountains. We could see as far as Robin Island, not only famous for Nelson Mandela but also for some of my own relatives, must go and visit some day

.

After spending some time on the hill and listening to the Signal at 12pm we headed for to a Township tour in Langa. I have been past the townships a lot recently and this was an opportunity to go in and see what is was like. Before stepping off the coach we were warned to be vigilant as the area is not like one that I have experienced before. We went for a guided walk around a small part of the township. Some of the youngsters in the township came running up to Mr Jones like a celebrity but it was because they rarely see someone with his hair colour! We met some of the people and lots of the children before sitting down for lunch and listening to some awesome drumming and African xylophone performances. The food was brilliant and everyone ate well, a mix of traditional and local foods from the area. After Henry K had stood up the front and sung, and a group of other boys had a go on the instruments, Ed S. doing his best not to keep in time, we went back to the buses and went on a short drive around some of the other parts of the township. What is very clear is that we live a very privileged life, we sat in our very comfortable coach looking in on a world that is unlike anything we have at home. We are very fortunate and one thing that struck me was that the things that we have should not be taken for granted as there are people in far worse situations than us. I hope that all of the boys on tour could see the difference in culture as at points today there is a massive gap.

We were all very tired from the day and we had a journey up to Velddrif. Most of the boys slept on the coach on the way before arriving to dinner at the Riviera Hotel ready for the matches tomorrow. The welcome was warm and the food was needed, tomorrow brings a trip to the beach to relax and then throw the rugby ball around before our final tour matches. Hoping for good performances and positive results.

Day 11: Cape Canopy and Tour Dinner

Today was our excursion to Cape Canopy, South Africa’s biggest and newest zip wiring experience. We all woke up to stunning views of Cape Town before we headed off into the mountains.

We arrived in good time at Cape Canopy and as usual the boys dried up the cafe’s supply for the day. Each group went for a safety briefing before setting off on a 30 minute journey through the mountainous terrain, the views brought an unexpected tear to Ollie A’s eye.

The tour guides were full of enthusiasm showing off their experience on the wires even flipping over the wire before sliding down to the other end. A lot of the boys were apprehensive at first but soon got the hang of it. Quite literally for Harry M who managed to mistime his braking, almost drifting back into the middle of the wire.

Ryan H, Owen L and Alex W all wore their flip flops for the day, embarrassed by their stupidity, Owen L had a cunning plan, to wear his socks over his flip flops. The tour guides were in hysterics but praised him for his creativity.

I think it’s safe to say that this was the boys favourite experience on tour, all becoming experts by the end of the day. We headed back to the Lagoon Beach to freshen up and with some time spare, Henry K, Freddie J and Max L decided to brave the ocean for a dip. At 7pm we ventured to the Waterfront for our traditional tour dinner. The boys trickled out of their rooms in bow ties and braces all looking dapper.

Our tour dinner was at the City Grill overlooking the harbour. The set menu consisted of caesar salad, garlic bread and chicken wings to start followed by steak and chips. The main course was served, the steak was bigger than Henry H! He was determined not to be defeated and demolished it all but soon after it became clear that the steak made Henry’s body shut down in order to digest it! Bless!

 

Day 10: Feed them to the sharks!

Like a scene out of the Walking Dead, the boys stumbled out of their rooms to the dining hall for breakfast at 5am. Today we were off to dive with sharks. The first group went straight to shark diving and the 2nd went to a penguin sanctuary.

We were given some information that an anomaly had happened that had never been documented in the area before. A pair of rogue orcas had been seen in the area were menacing the great white sharks (appropriately nicknamed Tom H and Kian G). After 3 great whites had washed up on the beach with Henry T size bite marks in their sides the rest had decided to go into hiding like Ed S in the mornings.

The decision was made that we had to at least give it a go with the outside chance of a sighting. An early rise of 5am was needed to ensure the tide was in our favour and for once no one was late! The group was split into two with the first group going sailing to spot the elusive whites and the other to visit a penguin sanctuary and visit a beach, where the travelling dads attempted to pass on some rugby skills to the boys. This took all of about 10 seconds.

Out on the boat the first group were not lucky with the weather and sea was choppy and the sky overcast. To say there were a few green faces would be an understatement with a trail that fed the following seagulls till there bellies were full. However Mr Freds was able to escape the same fate as previously experienced as he was throwing anti sickness tablets down his neck as if they were smarties.

At one point Mr Meehan was going to be painted grey and thrown in the sea to do some back stroke to trick the boys into thinking that a shark fin was in the water, but then we thought, the boys aren’t that silly and would think it was a whale instead. The group was lucky and with my birds eye view I was able to guide them to see some real whales swimming in a pod.

With the weather improving and the sea calmer the groups swapped and the sea legs were a lot more stable until Mr Roser started a chain reaction by feeding the fish with half digested full English. Reece M watched in disbelief until he turned and fed the other side. Unlucky for Owen L who was in the cage and ended up wearing the fish feed.

After the shark searching experience the boys were fed and the journey to Cape Town began.

Day 9: Kynsna to Hermanus – The Garden Route

Today I spent the day with Freddie J. I woke up to a buffet lots of food including cereal, yogurt and a fried breakfast. I was then told to wait outside as someone had called the bus driver’s room in the night. It turned out to be Henry K trying to call home as he was feeling home sick. I gave him a cuddle but this did not prevent him from receiving the ‘wally’ shirt for the day.

I then walked around the market at the bay in Knynsa where we saw a port filled with big yachts and had the opportunity to buy some souvenirs.

I then got on the coach where we stopped off a admired views at Dolphin Point, the teachers began to have a photoshoot while puffing their chests out. Everyone was astonished by the golden beaches and the waves crashing against the rocks.

We continued our travels through the amazing Garden Route towards Cape Town. Mr Freds clearly couldn’t handle the long travel and came up with a song about the boys to the tune of Wonderwall and proceeded to sing it to the coach. It did not go down well. We stopped off at an Aloe Shop where we saw the world’s largest aloe vera plant.

After 5 hours of travelling through jaw-dropping valleys and mountains, we made it to the Windsor Hotel in Hermanus. It was located on the coastline, the boys were giving free time to roam around the seaside town and eat a various restaurants.

The boys had a curfew of 10pm as we had to be up at 5am to leave for our shark-diving excursion in Gansbaai.

 

Day 8: Match Day at Point High

Today the boys said their goodbyes to their hosts and thanked them with a gift, something quintessentially British. The coach was loaded with suitcases but delayed by Ben S who left his hand luggage with his home stay family! Luckily they didn’t live too far away. We eventually set off to Jo’Berg Airport where we were to continue our tour on a flight south to George.

Upon arrival to George, we made our way straight to Point High School in Mooslebai (sp) to play our 2nd lot of matches in 48 hours. The backdrop for a game of rugby was impressive, clear skies, the ocean and mountains in full view.

 

Both matches started at 3pm. The two games were tough, physical matches, however the knocks, niggles and injuries the boys were carrying didn’t help us. The matches didn’t go our way with the U16s losing 38-5 and U17A&B’s losing 34-5. Ravens Wood man of the matches went to Joe Davis and Kai Pearce-Paul.

It was clear to see playing two matches in a row took a toll on our boys, it’s a good thing they have a few days rest before their final matches on Tuesday.

Once again, the school had organised post-match hospitality where the boys ‘Number 1’s’ were on show again, their staff were impressed. Speeches from the headmaster and coaches opened the evening along with the exchange of gifts before dinner was served. The meal was chicken, rice, potato and pumpkin, it certainly fed the boys well.

We then set off to our hotel in the waterfront town of Knynsa which took around an hour and 30 minutes. Some of the boys caught a second wind and did their best Jay-Z impressions at the back of the bus. We settled into the hotel around 9pm and the boys surrendered to their rooms to drown themselves in Wi-Fi.

Day 7: Match Day at Eldoraigne High

Today was another early start where we would head to Ellis Park Stadium, home of the Lions for a tour. Luckily we did not hit Jo’Berg traffic and arrived the stadium in good time.

The tour started in the museum full of rugby memorabilia, a number of the boys took photos with a Sonny Bill-Williams shirt recently worn in a match against the British and Irish Lions but not Ed S who decided to sit on a sofa playing a game of pool on his phone…what an enriching experience! The tour moved into the press boxes where we got our first glimpse inside the stadium. Next was the dressing rooms and recovery pool, Kian G was keen to go in but realised he had not brought his armbands. Finally, we were at the top of the tunnel and made our way out pitch side. Michael W-S showed withdrawal symptoms from rugby as he continued walking into the middle of the pitch!

Mr Meehan (Head of Rugby) saw an opportunity to stamp his authority down on his predecessor Mr Jones by attempting to tackle him down to the ground. Unfortunately the predator soon became prey as he found himself on the floor with Mr Jones staring over him. The stadium tour finished with a quick stop in the club shop.

It was now time for the boys to focus as we arrived at Eldoraigne ready to play. The Under 16’s kicks us off and battled through a tough opposing side losing out 42-5. The Under 16’s made some fantastic plays including the try by Charles Bonetti. Ravens Wood’s man of the match went to Harry Catchesides who showed a huge amount of grit and determination. The Under 17B’s were up next but the South African side shadowed our squad and coming away with a comfortable 50-0 win. Ravens Wood’s man of the match went to Max Luscombe who provided stability at the breakdown. Lastly, the U17A’s were up hoping to avenge the defeats. Eldoraigne’s 1st team with six 18 year olds put the nail in the coffin, defeating us 50-0. Ravens Wood’s man of the match went to Scott Macaulay for his strong and consistent performance. It was a great learning curve for the teams to see the standard of rugby at a well-established and affluent South African school.

The boys went home to get ready for the post-match hospitality at a nearby golf club. While Eldoraigne may have won the battle on the pitch, Ravens Wood certainly won the war post-match with the boys all wearing their ‘Number 1’s’ attire and in traditional 3L style, were gentlemen of Ravens Wood. Upon investigation, the school has a corporate membership with the golf club and their headteacher encourages staff to play on Monday afternoons. I’m sure the PE department will put this forward at a Professional Development day to Ms Spence for consideration. The captains awarded their man of the matches, handing out tour ties to the recipients. Lastly, the coaches spoke and exchanged gifts along with speeches. Mr Meehan sub-consciously decided to give his best impression of a South African accent during his speech.

Day 6: The lion pit to Eldoraigne High

Today was an early start, we were woken at 6am for our second game drive. After copious amounts of caffeine at 6:30am we set off into the reserve and immediately confronted by a giraffe. Tall with a long neck, many of the boys had confused looks on their faces, mistaking the giraffe for Mr Roser. A number of the boys dressed ready for a warm summer’s day but soon opted for the game keeper’s stash of ponchos, the boys looked more ready for a water ride than a game drive.

 

The majority of Jurassic Park-esque wagons headed straight to the Lion enclosure (2500 hectares) in the hope the lions were still active. The game keepers impressively and quickly tracked down the lions who were finishing up their breakfast of antelope, leaving the cubs to play with what was left of it’s head. The male was doing it’s best impression of Joe L by not getting up to see the sunrise.

Back in the main enclosure, the game keeper Francis allowed for the boys to get out of the wagon and into a ‘picnic’ area near the Hippos lake. Whether or not it was a ‘picnic’ area for us was questionable. The boys willingly got out while Niall M was finally released back into the wild. Sightings of elephants soon game over the radio. Not 1 or 2, but 7! The trees didn’t stand a chance, their trunks ripping down branches.

After a few hours out in the reserve, the boys resembled animals as they ate through Mabula’s breakfast stock. However, it was very much needed for the long drive ahead to Eldoraigne High School where the boys would meet their host families. We stopped off at Centurion Mall, South Africa’s version of Bluewater. Some took the opportunity to treat themselves to a gift while Kai P-P and Daniel R raced to McDonald’s.

We hopped (I flew…obviously) back on the coach and travelled to Eldoraigne High School. Eldoraigne is a mixed state school in an affluent area of Pretoria, which has a strong rugby culture. Rugby is used as a marketing tool for schools as parents will choose a school based upon the performance on the field. Strong rugby schools have lower behavioural problems and engage parents within school life, creating a strong community spirit. When Eldoraigne plays their local rivals, a crowd of over 5000 will be in attendance. However this is a small crowd compared to when the top two schools, Paarl Boys and Paarl Gym School play each other, with over 40,000 pitchside!

After a week in the bush, the boys became very excited at the sight of Eldoraigne’s sixth form girls’ softball team. In fact some of the boys may have stood a chance with the young ladies, if their kit had not made them smell like a Kudu’s undercarriage. 

As the host families arrived, the boys began to size up their opposition and fear of being hosted turned to fear of being eaten. The daily Transvaal diet of steak braai and sun shine had produced some of the biggest boys we had ever seen.

The host families were very pleasant and the first group of boys were called up to meet their hosts. Slowly the number of boys in the bleechers began to shrink as they set off with their hosts, you could see the stress in Mr Freds’ eyes disappear as he began to crack a smile.

I spent the evening watching Mr Jones attempt to master the perfect Tinder profile picture.

Day 5: Bye Konka, Hello Mabula ?

The day started with another large breakfast, which Michael W devoured within minutes before returning for seconds and then thirds. We then packed up and began our travel to Mabula Game Lodge in Bela Bela.

We arrived at Mabula mid-afternoon and as we entered the reserve we were immediately confronted by elephants and lions. The hotel we stayed in was very high end and immediately Todd R’s accent stood out a mile. The rooms we were staying in were very plush and comfortable, however outside baboons lay in wait in the hope the Jack H would leave his door open so they could steal back their clothes. At 15:00 we headed out on our first game drive of our stay in hope of seeing some of the ‘Big 5’ animals (Mr. McMurray excluded). We were driven around by experienced South African game keepers who knew all the nooks and crannies of the reserve. Whilst out on our drive we were able to see Rhinos, Hippos, Crocodiles, Impala, Cheetahs, Higheenahs, Zebras, Mice and Harry C’s cuddly teddy bear. After a few hours out we headed back for dinner, where Henry T was asked to let all the other hotels guests get their food before he went up. Once dinner was finished many of us headed back to the room for the night. En route however we had to dodge the impala’s, porcupine and rhinos which had made their way into the hotel grounds from the reserve to be kept warm by Henry K’s southernly wind.

We were all tucked into bed with our cuddly teddy bears and lights off by 10pm as we had an early start the next day for our second game drive.