Fans make 20-hour trip for dou­ble header

Irish Independent - - NEWS - John Fal­lon

A NEW era be­gins as Le­in­ster play two com­pet­i­tive games in South Africa over the next two week­ends.

The in­clu­sion of the Toy­ota Chee­tahs from Bloem­fontein and the South­ern Kings from Port El­iz­a­beth has ex­panded the newly ti­tled PRO14.

Le­in­ster’s trip to South Africa so early in the sea­son – only two rounds have been played – has left sup­port­ers with lit­tle time to make travel ar­range­ments.

But the trip is bound to ap­peal to fans in due course, es­pe­cially as they can take in two matches.

The two cities where they are based are quite dif­fer­ent. Bloem­fontein, sit­u­ated on the Highveld, is a uni­ver­sity city with a pop­u­la­tion of 369,000 which is the cap­i­tal of Free State.

Port El­iz­a­beth, which hosted matches at the 2010 soc­cer World Cup, is sit­u­ated in the East­ern Cape and is very much a tourist re­sort.

Barend Pi­eterse, who was capped for South Africa in 2007 and is now as­sis­tant coach of the South­ern Kings, said fans will re­ally en­joy vis­it­ing Port El­iz­a­beth (known to the lo­cals as PE).

“Port El­iz­a­beth is an amaz­ing place, it’s by the sea, it’s got ter­rific weather es­pe­cially dur­ing the months it is win­ter in Europe. “We are look­ing for­ward to sup­port­ers com­ing to PE, they will re­ally en­joy it and our sup­port­ers will en­joy meet­ing them,” he said. The sched­ule, which will see Ir­ish prov­inces play in Bloem­fontein and Port El­iz­a­beth on each trip, gives fans the op­por­tu­nity to go to South Africa for over a week. Many are likely to opt to go to Cape Town and travel from there to the two venues. The Garden Route, a 300km stretch from Cape Town to Storms River in the East­ern Cape, will prove at­trac­tive, with fans fly­ing to the higher al­ti­tude venue in Bloem­fontein. There are re­turn flights from Dublin to Cape Town for €525, with trips tak­ing 18-20 hours al­low­ing for stopovers, while four-star ho­tels in Cape Town are avail­able for €80-100 and less in Port El­iz­a­beth and Bloem­fontein. Ad­mis­sion prices to games – which at­tract at­ten­dances of up to 15,000 – cost as lit­tle as €6.

Brett Wilkin­son (pic­tured), who is from Gra­ham­stown in the East­ern Cape, played for Con­nacht for nine years. He said: “South African peo­ple are pas­sion­ate rugby sup­port­ers and they will be a great ad­di­tion to the PRO14.

“Sup­port­ers of the prov­inces in Ire­land and the other clubs in Wales, Scot­land and Italy will re­ally en­joy their trips.”

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