The Reuters global sports blog
Things warming up nicely on the South African sporting front
The South African sporting public were a little underwhelmed by the early stages of the Confederations Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour but the last few days has seen a major turnaround and there is now something in the air.
Relatively high ticket prices combined with the Sprinboks’ decision to keep their players out of their Super 14 teams combined to ensure the early provincial games were played against a backdrop of empty seats.
Now, however, with the first test looming on Saturday, a ticket for King’s Park is like gold dust. The few thousand Lions fans who followed the team round the country over the first three weeks have been joined by a massive influx for the tests.
Estimates are that more than 30,000 will arrive for some part of the tour and they were out in force in Durban this week. Balmy seaside temperatures, good cheap food and, vitally, even cheaper beer, makes the coastal resort a dream destination for rugby tourists.
Organised groups, more often than not bedecked in matching tour shirts, are fillling the oceanside bars by night, while taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities South Africa has to offer by day.
While everyone has an opinion on whether the Boks should or should not have played a warm-up match and on the Proteas’ prospects in cricket’s World Twenty20, the efficiency of Iraq’s back four in the Confederations Cup has not been at the conversational fore.
However, South Africa’s victory over New Zealand on Wednesday has stirred things up and, with the World Cup less than a year away, previously pessimistic fans are warming again to their side, who are well-placed to reach the semi-finals of this dry-run tournament on home soil.
It’s not exactly World Cup fever just yet, but the temperature is definitely rising.
PHOTO: A fan cheers before South Africa take on New Zealand in their Confederations Cup soccer match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg June 17, 2009. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez