Tour Diary (Currie Cup final)

Keegan Daniel’s prima donna outburst, mistaken as the Sharks’ mascot and travelling back to Cape Town with the victorious WP team.

This was my first trip to Durban, so I was looking forward to experiencing life on the east coast. I was welcomed by rain and humid conditions on Tuesday morning, and wasn’t too impressed to miss out on a hot day (temperatures hit 31°C) back in the Mother City. But still, I was hoping for the best.

I didn’t have the best introduction at King Shaka International Airport.

My first stop was at the car hire office. You can imagine my surprise when I was told that I was upgraded to a higher class as the vehicles designated to me were all given away already. I usually drive a Volkswagen Polo GTI or Hyundai I20 when touring, so I expected a luxury vehicle. The counter lady handed me a Toyota key and guided me to parking lot. A MR2 maybe?

In the aisle, I passed BMWs, Audis and a Mercedes Benz. My excitement grew. But what an anti-climax when I ended up at a Toyota Innova – fit for a soccer mom.

In I got (reluctantly), and off I went. On my way out, I had no idea a toll gate was waiting for me around the corner. As a Cape Town boytjie, I’m not used to paying tariffs as I travel around the city. The main issue was the fact that I don’t carry any cash on me – I prefer swipe.

This was my conversation with the toll gate official:

Official: R4 please.

Me: I don’t have any cash, I only have a debit card.

Official: No debit cards. Do you have a credit card?

Me: Nope.

Official: Do you have any foreign monies on you?

Me: I’m from Cape Town.

Official: Well, you’ll have to get out your car and ask the other people for cash.

Me: Seriously?

Official: Yes sir. No R4, no way through.

Unbelievable. I literally had to get out of my car, ask the guy parked behind me for a R4 (he did so with a big laugh) and eventually they let me through. Welcome to Durban, Gareth.

At least I got to witness a hilarious moment shortly before the Sharks press conference later that afternoon. Captain Keegan Daniel was at the table, speaking to his media officer, not knowing the microphone in front of him was switched on. They were discussing his trip to the SA Rugby Awards to be held in Cape Town on Thursday night. To the shock of the journalists present, Keegan said angrily: ‘I’m not flying down if I’m not winning anything. Surely you guys will know these things before the actual event? It wastes a whole day of my break’.

Apart from the rugby affairs and the great game witnessed at Kings Park, I had an enjoyable stay overall. Some of the surroundings aren’t flattering and Durban doesn’t have the nightlife that I’m used to back in Cape Town, but the locals were very friendly. And they seemed to like my hairstyle.

For those who don’t know, I’m the only rugby writer in South Africa who dons the mohawk haircut. I’ve managed to turn down Ryan Vrede’s numerous suggestions of alternative styles. The mohawk proved to be a major hit in Durban. The regular questions I was asked were ‘You’re not from here hey? Do you play soccer?’ and ‘Are you on TV? I saw you on TV’. But my favourite moment happened in the Morningside Spar, when a youngster shouted: ‘Daddy, daddy look, it’s Sharkboy!‘ Ah the innocence of youth.

On Sunday morning, I found myself travelling home with the entire WP family on the flight back to Cape Town. This included the U21s and U19s, who looked on proudly as the senior team carried the Currie Cup trophy into the airport. The public treated the players and management like celebrities.

Head coach Allister Coetzee looked like a president, receiving a handshake from every person he passed. Gio Aplon was the DJ, providing the music for his team-mates. Celebrations galore.

On the plane, Scarra Ntubeni carried the Currie Cup trophy down the aisle, to the cheers of all the people on board. Joe Pietersen even got to sit in the pilot’s cockpit. Jebb Sinclair also revealed to me that he will return to London Irish this Thursday after an ‘experience of a life time’ with WP and the Stormers this season.

I mistakenly took Eben Etzebeth’s seat. You can imagine my shock as the monster lock approached me. After a quick chat, I realised I was in 7C and was supposed to be in 6C. Luckily I wasn’t Nathan Sharpe – no head-butt for me. The youngster turns 21 on Monday, and will celebrate his birthday in Montagu before joining the Springboks on Wednesday.

Many players looked hung over as the team enjoyed one hell of a jol last night. They also received a great reception at Cape Town International Airport, even receiving a welcome from the Western Cape Premier Hellen Zille. This was all well-deserved. After 11 years of cup heartache, a major trophy will finally find its place in the Province cabinet.

After a week of heavy cloud cover,rain and gale-force winds, I’m glad to be coming home to sunny Cape Town. Thank you Durban, it was good while it lasted.

By Gareth Duncan