The former England cricketer Allan Lamb gives an insider’s guide to combining the forthcoming rugby tour with the best of the country of his birth.
Given South Africans’ legendary hospitality and their propensity to party with a ferocity that is only matched by their rugby forwards, the British and Irish Lions tour that starts next month should be a memorable occasion for all travellers involved.
The Tests are being played in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg but a large number of Lions’ supporters will also be spending some time in the Cape. In fact, the group I am taking on the tour will be based in Cape Town and will be flying to the Tests, spending a night or two in the Test venue and then returning to the Cape. This is easy to do because the internal flight network in South Africa is better than any on the continent – there are 48 flights a day between Cape Town and Johannesburg and 19 a day between Cape Town and Durban.
So, with this in mind, here is my guide to the best pre- and post-Test activities in these four cities:
I grew up in this lovely city and it is the gastronomic and viticultural centre of the country. So, obviously wine tours of neighbouring Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are a compulsory part of any Cape trip. I would recommend The Waterford Estate just outside Stellenbosch town, where you can partake of winemaker Kevin Arnold’s chocolate and wine tastings, Gyles Webb’s Thelema vineyard at the top of the Helshoogte Pass, and the Welbedacht Estate in Wellington, where the great Springbok flanker Schalk Burger’s family runs a lovely estate that has guest accommodation, a cricket pitch and a mountain biking trail.
There are hundreds of excellent restaurants in the Cape area but if you really want to splash out there is one in Franschhoek that should be mentioned: Le Quartier Francais (021 876 2151) has been voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Then there is the Rust en Vrede restaurant (021 881 3881) set in the 300-year-old wine estate of the same name which now produces, exclusively, terrific big reds. In Cape Town itself, La Colombe (021 794 2390), the award-winning restaurant at Constantia Uitsig, is worthy of a special treat, while the shabby-chic Grand (021 438 4253) in Camps Bay offers a great atmosphere. Two bars I would recommend are The Whisky Bar at The Cape Grace Hotel on the Waterfront and the Planet Bar at the Mount Nelson Hotel on a Friday night.
Away from food and drink, there is a great deal to do in the Cape. I would highly recommend a trip by helicopter around the Cape Peninsula – this is a truly magnificent natural landscape and although a coastal road trip is a treat, it is far better viewed by helicopter. Also, a trip to Robben Island should not be missed and, if the weather is good, a trip up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain won’t disappoint. And for adrenalin junkies there is nothing that gets the pulse racing like cage diving with sharks.
DURBAN (First Test)
A night out in Durban would not be complete without a couple of cold Castle Lagers at Billy the Bum’s bar (504 Windermere Road; 031 303 1988). This bustling drinking hole attracts a great mix of Durban’s most enthusiastic socialites and is just a stone’s throw from the Kings Park Stadium. Its menu includes great steaks, hamburgers and chicken.
For seafood try the Bel Punto Restaurant (Umdloti Centre, South Beach Road, Umdloti Beach; 031 303 1988), situated some 25 minutes up the north coast. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, it serves the best seafood in town – fresh prawns, langoustines, crayfish, and line fish. There is also Butcher Boys Grill (031 303 7242) in Morningside, where you can get a superb 12oz rump steak for R95 (£7).
Umhlanga is surely Durban’s most scenic area. Situated on the waterfront, this area has undergone massive development, boasting many top-end apartment blocks and is the playground for Durban’s bright young things. One bar that is strongly recommended is Cotton Fields (031 561 2744), in the heart of the Umhlanga Village on Lagoon Drive. This bar is a rugby shrine and the place to be the evening before the first Test.
Durban’s Point Waterfront area, which once consisted of neglected old fishing stations and warehouse buildings, has been renovated and brought back to its former splendour. Here, the uShaka Marine World aquarium extends into the Cargo Hold restaurant, where you can sit at your table while ragged tooth sharks circle you.
PRETORIA (Second Test)
The city is teeming with bars and restaurants. LM in the East (012 348 3359), in Lynnwood, is a great Portuguese restaurant and bar, specialising in seafood and steaks. Crawdaddy’s (012 993 1333; www.crawdaddys.co.za ), part-owned by South African international Victor Matfield, is another good option, serving up similar fare.
For pre- and post-match drinks near the famous Loftus rugby ground, head to the giant Trademarx bar (012 344 5000; www.trademarx.co.za ) complete with 50 screens. During great sporting events the atmosphere is charged and the bars are crowded.
For something other than steak, steak and more steak, try JD Wokit (426 Rodericks Road, St George’s Court; 012 365 1318) – its motto “You create, we cook” sums up its wok-inspired menu.
And if you are looking for a wildlife experience on the days before or after the match, head to iZapa, an hour by road from central Pretoria, where an afternoon game drive and a braai (barbecue) is the order of the day. If you do have a few days after the Tests, Kruger National Park is only a one-hour flight from Johannesburg by light aircraft. Two camps I would recommend are Leopard Hills (013 735 5142) in Kruger’s Sabi Sabi private reserve and Kings Camp (015 793 1123) in the northern corner of the Timbavati reserve.
JOHANNESBURG (Third Test)
Africa’s biggest and most prosperous city has plenty of good restaurants and bars, but remains essentially a business city and consequently is not nearly as much fun as Durban or Cape Town. If you are at a loose end you could visit the Apartheid Museum, opposite Gold Reef City, or the moving Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto. The best theatre and music can be found at the Market Theatre complex, which has four theatre venues, and Kippies, a popular jazz venue.
When in South Africa you have to do as the South Africans do – that is, eat incredible steak – and two Johannesburg restaurants serve the best steaks on the continent. The Butcher Shop in Mandela Square has a terrific atmosphere but closes relatively early (about 10.45pm). The Local Grill in Parktown North is renowned for serving the finest grain-fed and free-range beef. And for those looking for a lively round of drinks and a bit of food on the side, The Baron Bryanston (011 706 0632) and Bellini’s (011 880 9168) in Chaplin Road, Illovo, are favourites of the rugby crowd.
source: Daily Telegraph
Looking for accommodation, hotels, car hire or tours in South Africa? Visit