The BOK stops here

2011-08-31 00:00

I LIVE in the official host city of the Springboks — Wellington.

I love it here and will happily show any visiting South African around. I am South African-born and raised, but I am a full-fledged Kiwi these days.

“So, who do you support?” I am often asked.

“The Springboks,” I answer. After all, I was born in Durban.

However, New Zealand is where I spent my high school and university years, where I lost my virginity, saw my first rock concert, learnt to drive, got my first job and bought my first home. So you understand how having to give an answer actually pains me. I love New Zealand, and the All Blacks are frickin’ awesome.

For all the cultural bleating over what some consider to be New Zealand’s closest thing to a national religion­, the host nation for this year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) is yet to see its enthusiasm reflected in ticket sales and as day one beckons, the sound of one-handed clapping grows apace in some quarters.

A recent UMR research survey found that many Kiwis couldn’t give a damn about the cup.

The June-July survey reports that of the 850 New Zealanders who were asked to rate their excitement ahead of the tournament, 35% were not looking forward to it, compared with 37% who were and 29% who were neutral.

Unsurprisingly, enthusiasm was particularly low in Canterbury. This is the region where Christchurch lies — the city that was rocked by three big earthquakes in September last year, and February and June this year. The second quake killed 181 people, much of the central city and eastern suburbs were severely damaged, including Stadium Christ-church, meaning scheduled Christchurch pool games were moved to Dunedin, Nelson, Wellington and Auckland instead.

Indeed, despite New Zealand being such a passionate rugby nation — when they lose it is like a day of mourning — I have found that RWC fever is not overtly obvious in the slightly downbeat political capital of Wellington.

While out in town on Monday I saw one car flying a little All Blacks flag from the window. Conversely, the atmosphere ahead of the Fifa World Cup in South Africa was electric. The country sported more flags than a semaphore convention. I was in South Africa a month before, during and a month after the Football World Cup.

Seventeen days ahead of the start of the Rugby World Cup organisers still had 200 000 tickets to sell in order­ to reach their targets.

And very recently, the RWC chief executive, Martin Snedden, and the RWC minister, Murray McCully, flew to Australia in a last-ditch attempt to attract fans from across the Tasman. One hundred thousand, or so we’re told, international tourists are expected to attend.

A recent TV blog on stuff.co.nz by Chris Philpott, lamenting the hype of the RWC on television, asked whether mentioning the RWC 24 times in the news hour was excessive, and asked readers if they had started muting the TV whenever anything rugby-related came on telly. The blog attracted almost 200 responses — most of which were negative about the cup.

One person who responded to the blog said it is a farce that the sporting event will be good for the country because all rugby does is lead to binge drinking and domestic violence.

I think those who are that way inclined will drink excessively and beat their wives regardless of whether the All Blacks are winning, losing or even playing. Either way, New Zealand has a few ideas about how to reduce the number of fans behaving badly.

In anticipation of the influx of drunken louts, the Ministry of Justice is allocating one of its rooms at the Auckland District Court to handle tournament-related arrests.

Even the Wellington free ambulance started preparing for the expected increase in alcohol-related injuries and emergencies by stationing an ambulance with paramedics on Courtenay Place, one of the main party­ strips in Wellington, on Friday and Saturday nights to stop intoxicated troublemakers clogging up the hospital’s emergency rooms.

Auckland city estimates it will have double the intake of Saturday night sauced-up idiots every day of the tournament.

I am as guilty as the next Kiwi-Saffa for binge drinking but after spending my expendable income on plane tickets­ up and down the country to watch the rugby I don’t think I’ll be doing much drinking.

I will, however, be out in town getting to know as many Springbok fans as possible, and show the manaakitanga (hospitality) New Zealanders pride themselves on.

And, of course, I will be waiting at Wellington airport with my South African­ flag around my neck to welcome­ the Boks when they arrive at midnight on Saturday.

 

• Dawn Tratt is a journalist working for Radio New Zealand whose family emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand in 1996. E-mail dawntratt@gmail.com

 

• R6 will buy about NZ$1.

• New Zealand is an expensive place to live, even for people earning NZ dollars.

A beer costs about $NZ7 (R42) or more in a pub, and a glass of house wine about the same.

Expect to pay at least NZ$20 (R119) for a meal and a drink if you are dining out.

• Beds at a central city YHA cost about NZ$28 (R167), while luxury hotel accommodation will cost between $220 and $750 (R1 300-R4 500) a night depending on the date and what kind of suite you choose.

I’d recommend contacting 80minutegame.com a provider of managed private accommodation for RWC, if you don’t want to get shafted by people renting their homes at over-inflated prices.

• Most importantly, if you are looking for a place to hang out during the festival, the Cambridge Hotel in the central city is working with the South African Embassy to create a “Bok Shop” a place for Bokke fans to watch games on the big screen and meet up for tours during the RWC.

South Africa vs Wales, September 11 and South Africa vs Fiji, September 17, Wellington Stadium.

In anticipation of the influx of drunken louts, the Ministry of Justice is allocating one of its rooms at the Auckland District Court to handle tournament-related arrests.

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