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Mon Apr 21 16:55:20 SAST 2014

A jol if not a walk in the Ellis Park

Archie Henderson | 18 June, 2012 07:230 Comments

THE ticket to Ellis Park on Saturday mentioned nothing about a dress code. So it was like arriving at a black-tie dinner wearing a safari suit. That's what 40 years (or more) of being spoiled in the press box does to you.

The last time this hack was forced to dig into his own pocket for a way into a rugby test, the only blokes wearing a Springbok jersey were those who were playing that afternoon.

Getting to the ground also requires a massive cultural shift. Catching the Gautrain in the affluent northern suburbs of Johannesburg you are quickly transported - in efficient, if officious, luxury - to our developing world of Park station in the heart of Joburg.

Park station is now pretty jacked up, except for the Metrorail service. The ticket office is hidden far from the platforms where the man behind the counter gives wrong advice on where to catch the train to Ellis Park. It's better to ask the vendor selling chips and ices.

The fact that Ellis Park station has been permanently closed is also a state secret, so you get dumped at Jeppe station rather than Doornfontein, the first stop on the line to Springs and a lot closer to the stadium.

Travelling at rush hour on a Saturday afternoon (for some there is a rush hour at weekends) is like being in the middle of a rugby maul - except that there is no referee to protect you against anyone coming in from the side. Getting off the train is a challenge if you don't have Willem Alberts in front of you.

Inside Ellis Park, another cultural shift takes place. Pieter Koen is belting out treffers that could get even the dullest party going. He resembles a young Toks van der Linde who has switched from bad opera to rock 'n 'roll.

Koen did not only get the crowd around us twitching their feet, he even got them singing along with Have You Ever Seen the Rain even though they only knew the words to the chorus. Hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival's big hit from 1970 was like watching Syd Nomis score that try against the All Blacks at Loftus in the same year.

CCR, it seems, are more enduring than even Danie Craven.

They could have given Koen man of the match as far as our mob on the east stand were concerned and the way the Boks played in the first half, they were a combination of Proud Mary and Down on the Corner [for the Boks' first try].

The second half was Bad Moon Rising.

The choreographed Bok plan had disappeared. Much of the Bok structure was gone and they appeared to be playing on individual instinct (see JP Pietersen) and sheer dogged defence.

There is no substitute for watching a rugby test live, but - as the replay showed later on Saturday night - TV brings you into the coaches' box where Heyneke Meyer's calm demeanour (laced with an abundance of clichés) is clearly misleading. During the game he kept trying to eat his walkie-talkie.

At least the Boks won. If they had lost, the walk back to Park station (no Metrorail at that time of night) would have seemed twice as long as it really is.

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A jol if not a walk in the Ellis Park

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Mon Apr 21 16:55:20 SAST 2014 ::