After months of planning this year’s sports tour, the teams finally arrived safely in Cape Town. On arrival we were met by Chervonne our tour rep and Luftie our driver who took us to our lovely accommodation for the 5 day stop at the Protea Sea Point. After dropping off their bags the players were keen to test out the pitches and started their training straight away at the Oude Moulen Sports Complex which possessed an unbelievable backdrop, with Table Mountain feeling but a stone’s throw away. The group trained really well for about 2 hours and managed to not only blow the cobwebs away but started to develop some good team patterns and organisation ahead of the first game.

The pupils woke up early the next day ready for a full day of activity before the first game against Bergvliet in the afternoon. Many had underestimated the potential impact of their experience in the Langa Township, the oldest township in Cape Town. Approximately the size of 100 football pitches, the township houses 100,000 residents. The living conditions were worse than any of us had expected however we were hugely humbled by the warmth and hospitality of everyone we met. We were shown around a very ‘affluent’ area of the township which had limited electricity, a cold water supply with many houses just two rooms big but accommodating whole families. This is known as the black district because of its lack of night time lighting. The ‘less affluent’ areas of the township were very hard to witness and all of our party felt humbled and privileged to have had the opportunity to talk to and play with the local children. After such an emotionally challenging morning, it was time to get our game faces on and both sides won their first match playing some superb hockey. An inspiring start to the tour.

The next eye opening experience soon followed as the group took a trip to Robben Island to visit the cell of the former South African president, Nelson Mandella. You could not help but be moved by the stories we heard and the pictures we saw. From Robben Island the group were taken to the base of Table Mountain. “Please let go of the hand rail, the floor of the pod will rotate continuously until you reach the top” were not comforting words for many of us, however, once at the top we were blown away. The mountain allowed for views in every direction as far as the eye could see.

Back on the pitches our players had two really fantastic games. The girls won against tough opponents, while the boys had a really tough game narrowly losing to the Wynberg side in temperatures that must have neared 30 degrees. The final games in Cape Town were also of a very high standard and unfortunately both teams lost to strong teams, SACS (boys) and Rustenberg (girls).

We departed Cape Town for a final few days in Johannesburg. Upon arrival the group were treated to a wonderful meal and speeches by their new hosts before being separated for two nights of billeting and fixtures against St Mary’s (girls) and Protea (boys). St Mary’s Waverly (ranked top girls hockey school in the country with 900 girls) were a tough side but Dean Close were triumphant, coming away with a 1-0 win. The boys then went on to play Parktown Boys’ High School and the opposition’s coach was very complimentary of our boys who worked incredibly hard, narrowly losing 4-1.

A couple more losses against Pretoria Boys’ High and Manlo High School could not dampen spirits as the tour drew to a close. With further inspiring visits to the Nelson Mandela Museum and Apartheid Museum, the tour was without a doubt an incredibly moving experience for both staff and pupils and one that they will always remember.

G Baber-Williams