Simon Austin on the BBC Sport website claims that “agreement has been made in principle for England to stay in Rustenburg next summer”.
Rustenburg is not a big place. I went to Rustenburg once, but it was closed. Fortunately, we continued west along the N4 and ended up in Zeerust, with its friendly drive-thru bottle store. From there we headed north until some nice Batswana* border guards with shiny R5 assault rifles politely asked us to stop and turn around. It seemed rude to disagree, though – safe in the knowledge that we were heading back towards a drive-thru bottle store – we felt the need to stop as soon as we were around the corner and down an entire bottle of Amarula. Each.
Coming face to face with a forceful gentleman in uniform brandishing his well-polished weapon can have that effect on a man.
All of this was a whole road away from Rustenburg though. So, apart from there being a drive-thru bottle store in a town a few miles to the west, why do England want to be there?
It comes down to three things: altitude, logistics and facilities. At 3,800ft above sea level, Rustenburg is great for acclimatising to the rarified Highveld air, it’s only 30 minutes from the small (yet perfectly adequate) Pilanesberg airfield and the hotel and sports complex there (Rustenburg, not the airfield) is still being built – hence the option of some degree of customisation.
Reports in South Africa claim Capello has already asked for an arcade room, plasma televisions bringing in British channels in each of the rooms, an electric security fence around the perimeter of the site and superb training facilities with manicured pitches.
Former Spurs and England defender Gary Mabbutt, who is advising the organising committee on their World Cup team bases, says such requirements are not unusual.
“Most teams want single rooms for their players kitted out with wi-fi, plasma TV, satellite and Playstations,” he told me.
I’m guessing that DSTV’s selection of repeated episodes of Top Gear from 2004 and repeated episodes of Top Gear from 2005 won’t be enough. Although, given the temperament of Wayne Rooney, repeated episodes of Supernanny from 2004 may be helpful. As may the Cbeebies channel.
While Rustenburg may seem to be the best option for the England team and their entourage, Austin makes a error in comparing it to Baden-Baden where the team was based for the 2006 World Cup tournament in Germany.
There is little in Rustenburg to attract England fans to stay there. Most importantly, it’s only within comfortable travelling distance of 4 of the World Cup stadiums. The major centres of Cape Town and Durban are a 2 hour flight away – and that’s from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport, which itself is a 2 hour drive from Rustenburg. It would be like staying in Sheffield, driving to Heathrow and jetting off to watch a match in Madrid. South Africa is big.
Added to that, the villages of Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Polokwane are even less readily accessible.
(No-one is ever really sure of how best to get to Bloemfontein, or why you’d want to.)
But there’s no doubt that having one of the big teams staying at your resort means big money.
The Times reports how Val de Vie in Franschhoek is going to extraordinary lengths to attract one of the larger nations including converting its polo fields into practice soccer pitches and planting Fifa-specified turf on them.
The estate’s 2010 coordinator, Martin Botha, said they already have massage and medical treatment rooms and team-building facilities. “We’re going to change the grass to the Fifa specifications for practice fields but otherwise everything else is in place,” he says.
I’ll check out how they’re doing when I head there for The Killers concert in December.
Finally, news just in that (apparently, allegedly) Brazil are going to be basing themselves in Cape Town. However, the same “expert” that predicted this then went on to say that England are going to be based in Johannesburg, so who knows?
Meh. Until things get confirmed (and quite probably beyond that time as well) it’s back to the Amarula for me…
* Officially the demonym of the people of Botswana.