Travel Review: A Springbok Experience at the V & A Waterfront’s green-and-gold Rugby Museum

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With the 8th edition of the Rugby World Cup set to kick-off in England on September 18th, I decided that it was past time that I head to the beautiful V & A Waterfront’s ‘Springbok Experience’ Rugby Museum on last Saturday’s glorious morning.

I’ve been wanting to go for about a year now and had determined to visit before the 2015 World Cup. So, a fortnight ago, I booked my ticket online (a first for me) via Web Tickets using my Pick n Pay Smart Shopper Card*.

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*(There’s a special running at present, which meant that I, as a so-called ‘Smart Shopper’, conveniently paid R32.50, as oppose R65, which was quite a nice saving. For more info., please see either www.picknpay.co.za or http://www.webtickets.co.za, where online bookings can be made.)

What’s more, because I loaded the ticket straight onto my Smart Shopper card and paid in-store the next day (it expires within 24 hours so settle the amount before then to secure your ticket), all I needed to take along to the Museum was said card and my till slip. This was really easy and more preferable to me! Furthermore, my ticket was valid until August 31st so I could easily delay my visit, as I was forced to do the previous weekend when the weather literally rained on my parade…)

This time, however, the weather was perfect for some ‘outdoor exploration’ and my usual happy-go-lucky mood was instantly bumped up to ‘blissfully happy’ when I stepped outside around 10:00 a.m. and encountered the first of our approaching, deliciously warm Spring weather.

I then caught the MyCiti bus (something I love doing, as it always makes for interesting and fun encounters and that morning was no different as I found myself trying to explain to a smiling foreigner, speaking very broken English, how and where to buy a SIM card from… and no, the answer is not at our local bus stations 🙂 ) down to the Waterfront and made my way through the palatial shopping centre to the Portswood House facility where the museum is housed.

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It’s just across the road from Mitchell’s Brewery, then up a short flight or two of concrete steps. Don’t get confused by the lower stairwell as that leads to the underground parking, but instead, climb right up to the top until you encounter the ‘Wall of Fame’ and find yourself next to a mini-rugby field, complete with its own pair of rugby posts.

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(It’s nice to sit or walk around there afterwards – but rather finish your tour of the museum before stopping to admire the breathtaking Table Mountain, which protectively looms up behind in the distance, and roadside, the V & A Waterfront below.

 

 

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Once you hit the beaded, almost life-size version of Bryan Habana, you need only open the door and enter into ‘the Tunnel’.

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Right from the offset, it is clear that the museum is a slickly run and lovingly maintained facility. The staff are exceedingly helpful and friendly – or at least they were when I had the pleasure of visiting.

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Acquiring my ticket was a wonderfully seamless process thanks to my pre-planning and afterwards, the receptionist placed my awesome* lilac ‘Springbok Experience’ wristband around my wrist and handed over my lime green ticket (retain it if you want to claim your free beer afterwards), whilst helpfully briefing me on what to expect inside – such as how many touch screens there are, where to find the ‘Springbok Trials’ room or merchandise shop – and where to go, as well as supplying me with extra handy tips such as: the short film’s running time and where to get the complimentary free beer (Answer: Quay Four Tavern. It’s past the Big Wheel, down alongside Cape Union Mart) with every adult ticket purchased.

* (At least I thought my wristband was awesome until it came to removing it afterwards… I got so desperate that I felt like ripping it apart with my teeth but eventually managed to pry it off with my free hand…. though I advise using scissors. :D)

Ticket prices (barring discounts) run as follows:

• Adults +18 – R65
• Under 5s – Free
• Scholars (5-18) – R40
• Senior Citizens (60+) – R40
Groups of 20 or more and/or Schoolsby pre-arrangement only
Families of 4 or more (must include two scholars) – R180, plus R30 for extra child

I spent about an hour going through the Museum (which is open from 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m. every day, except Christmas Day) and I took my time taking photos* but you could easily spend even two hours going over all the historical info. at hand or else, interacting with the touchscreens and ‘trial room’.

(Please note: Photos and videos are permitted, provided they are only for social media/personal use and not commercial purposes – unless by “prior arrangement” – and tripods/monopods, supplementary lighting and flash photography are not allowed. Furthermore, no food or drink is allowed within the Museum.)

Also, the Museum is wheel-chair friendly, as there’s a lift to and from the top floor but staff assistance is required for that.

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Near the reception, there are rugby tomes (quite literally in the ‘Springbok: The Official Opus’… For more info., make enquiries at the Reception) and the well-stocked merchandise shop behind but to your left, is the entrance into the lower level (there is even a green-and-gold (so to speak) ‘locker-room’ of sorts, with actual ‘Lockers for Visitors’ Use’, which I thought was cute) before you encounter the first real ‘Bok-inspired’ photos and quotes (look out for the ‘Giants in Green and Gold’ text painted on the floor) that stand out against the grey, metallic-like walls.

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Then, once you climb the stairwell – where you encounter a terrific photographic collage of national Springbok players and our game’s most iconic moments – you find yourself at the threshold of the museum’s fascinating and somewhat beautiful displays and marble-white statues.

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The first of who is: Canon George Ogilvie (or ‘Gog’), “who is widely credited with introducing the game of ‘football’ to South Africa in 1861, during his time as headmaster of Diocesan College (Bishops school).”

He babbles on in the background, addressing you as a traveller ‘from the future’, as you take in a breathtaking, ornately-framed painting nearby or interact with the first of the touchscreens that gives you a brief account of the man’s life and how rugby became known as ‘Gog’s game’, where its popularity first began on the college circuit.

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In a corner near the lift, there’s one of several wooden benches, which I was immediately fond of, once used in Newlands Rugby Stadium, Cape Town’s very own rugby stronghold, from 1927-1973 before the stadium was upgraded and the benches replaced.

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Paul Roos’s statue watches over the museum’s first main section.

From there on out, it’s a fascinating and deeply historical account of the game’s history in South Africa – and even abroad at times – as symbolic or time-honoured rugby paraphernalia (in the form of original letters/books, outfits and velvety caps, as well as brightly-polished trophies) line the labyrinth-like top floor, which snakes around.

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One of my highlights was undoubtedly the Currie Cup – so named after Sir Donald Currie (be sure to read up about his part in the Cup’s existence… it’s quite amusing).

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As anyone who truly knows me can attest to, though I love most sports (with cricket and football claiming top place), I have never been a particularly avid rugby fan/supporter but even I eagerly stepped up to the glass cabinet, wherein the Currie Cup was encased, with a kind of awe and breathless wonder.

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Needless to say, those around me (mainly a touring group of rugby boys) were even more keenly taken by the Cup – though I have to admit I frowningly paused at the 1898 ‘Rhodes Cup’ (another point of national interest after the recent ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaigns…), which was replaced by the South Africa Cup in 1971.

It’s also important to learn about the divisive aspect of rugby’s history (for example, there was the South African Rugby Football Board (S.A.R.F.B) and a separate South African Coloured Rugby Football Board (S.A.C.R.F.B.), founded a mere three years apart in 1883 and 1886 respectively), although few can deny the unification and phenomenal reconciliation process the sport has played in our country’s history and, in some ways, that of the world.

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From the serious to the light-hearted… in the olden days, when player numbers were found wanting, teams were split up rather oddly as: ‘Married vs Unmarried’ or ‘Ugly vs Handsome’. Thankfully, that part also remained behind in the past…

I did try to read or take in the various audio/video footage as far as possible, without lingering in any one place for too long, but I confess that I skimmed over a lot of the historical information – though, mindful of this and my planned review, I took photos of the most interesting facts and accounts, as well as the bulk of the cabinet displays, stunning statues and old, framed portraits and it’s nice to be able to ‘re-live’ the experience afterwards, whilst still having a real and very interesting time during one’s visit. If anything, it has only added to the process for me so I am glad I did that.

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Interactive screen display documenting the Springbok emblem’s evolution.
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Tell Us Your Rugby Story. Answer questions posed by top Boks such as Eben Etzebeth and Patrick Lambie.

I also really liked the interactiveness of the museum’s displays and screens. There are even fun, rugby ball-shaped facts (which you flip up to read the answer) dotted here and there, that all serve to make for a more enjoyable and engaging experience. This is the perfect example of a modern museum – and I have to say, I for one love it.

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My next point of fascination was Danie Craven (though the history of the famed Springbok emblem – the original “pronking Bok” was once criticised and called the “huppelbok (hunchback)”, something that both faintly horrified and amused me – and Paul Roos got my attention too, especially since his namesake, the Stellenbosch-based school, Paul Roos Gymnasium, has produced more Springboks than any other S.A. school as on 9th June 2012, Juandre Kruger became their 50th Springbok player.) who, as they say, if the game of S.A. rugby was designed for any one man, then Dr Daniel Craven (or ‘Mr Rugby’ as he was known) -“player, coach and administrator” – was that man.

It was fascinating to see the photos Mr Craven, who played such an integral role in shaping the sport and benefiting its future… One only has to look at the annual, acclaimed ‘Craven Week’ to know this – but even that is just the tip of the iceberg.

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(I confess to also enjoying the displays explaining the hostile relations between the Boks and the All Blacks… ever my favourite national rugby encounter! 😛 )

Before that, you find a detailed, historical account of the Boks’ (and other S.A. sports’ teams) exclusion from international tours and once again, I felt ashamed of our country’s divisive past, but then, quite suddenly, you see former President F.W. de Klerk in Parliament announcing Mr Mandela’s release from prison and further on, you turn the corner and see the statues of late former President Nelson Mandela and former legendary Springbok captain François Pienaar, hands clasped, smiling warmly at the other, as the Springboks claimed World Cup victory on home soil in 1995, thus, changing the course of an entire country’s history and its people.

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It has always been my favourite aspect of rugby and although I was too young to even hope to remember those nationally symbolic days, I am proud to be a Bok supporter because of all that they achieved during and since 1995… and however they may fare in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, I will be behind them all of the way, one hundred percent.

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2007 Rugby World Cup Winning Captain, John Smit’s Springbok jersey with the rest of the teams’ names and signatures. The jersey is being loaned to the Museum by Smit.

After that, things get fun again as you enter a room of screens, stats and legends. I particularly enjoyed seeing how I ‘measure up’ (height-wise) against Springboks… Needless to say, like most normal human beings, I am far below Andries Bekker’s 208 cm height but I was close enough to Tommy Gentles’s 160 cm when measured against the rainbow-coloured ‘height’ arrows. 🙂

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The museum’s interactive screens will captivate young and old, especially rugby enthusiasts.
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See how you measure up against the Springboks… for most, it’s like to be a tall order!

In a small room just off from it (once the clock has counted down, you enter in one side and exit out the other and then, your tour of the museum is over), you will find three big screens – with excellent surround sound and fairly comfortable seating (just mind your step) – and soon you’re enjoying a great, roughly 7-minute long (it felt much shorter, I enjoyed it so) film, which had great audio and visuals (with a superb interchange of action between screens), showing how the Springboks play every day… It’s clever and touching and when the part featuring Springboks and the crowd singing the National Anthem plays, I really did get goosebumps. It’s powerful and fiercely patriotic stuff.

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The ‘Hands-Off Challenge’. Pit yourself against the skills of other visitors and players.

After that, I made my way downstairs and briefly glanced around the ‘Springbok Trials’ room where players visually encourage you to compete and see how you fare in a series of challenges. Admittedly, I was sorely tempted to try the ‘Hands-Off Challenge’ and I’m sure my small hands could have done a good job at it but I left it in the end.
I then headed over to the excellent merchandise store, where you can buy gift vouchers (of R20, R50 & R100 to use in-store), shirts, pens, beaded bracelets/leather wristbands, brightly coloured Gilbert balls, fluffy Springbok toys (they’re adorable…) and so much more. Prices vary, with the cheapest item probably the R10 lip balms and some of the more expensive the Springbok t-shirts, which seem to start at around R700.

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The receptionist asked me if I had enjoyed my Springbok experience and my answer was, “I really did, it was great, thank you!” – and it was certainly the truth.

I can strongly recommend the Springbok Experience – especially as ‘Bok fever’ mounts and we rally behind ‘the Bokke’ next month – to everyone, even if you aren’t an avid supporter or the biggest rugby fan on the planet. It’s exceedingly professional, the facilities are pleasant, well-lit and top-class and what’s more, it’s an all-round audio, visual and physical experience and well-worth the hour or so you will while away within its depths.

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From there, I went to look at the outdoor area (which I love) and then it was onto the Quay Four Tavern where I had my first, ‘pub beer’, so to speak. I honestly am not beer fan… but it was drinkable and free. (I also wanted to check it out for my blog… If you don’t want to claim your free beer, then that’s fine too but the Quay Four’s buzzing, relaxed and cool indoor surroundings, with its ‘rugby wall’ as I thought of it, certainly topped off my rugby experience and I suppose the amber-coloured, chilled beer that I carefully sipped as I sifted through the photos (and memories) of my morning, probably did too.

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All in all, the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum gets a firm 10/10 rating from me. There’s honestly nothing to fault about it, as for me, it ticks all the boxes. Now all that remains, is to “get behind the Bokke” come September… and I hope that my fellow South Africans will too! 🙂

Many thanks to the Springbok Experience staff and Rugby Museum, the V & A Waterfront and Quay Four Tavern (where I was directed to the bar immediately and after handing in my ticket, served the free beer right thereafter) for the wonderful experience and the additional information cited in this post.

For more info. on the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum, please contact them telephonically on: + 27 (021) 418 4741 or find them for yourself at Portswood House, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town.

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Additionally, see and follow their Facebook (http:www.facebook.com/SpringbokRugbyMuseum) or Twitter (@bokmuseum).

Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Tamlyn Ryan is a writer and blogger, who runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust. Despite a national diploma in Journalism, her preferred niche remains travel writing. She is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and above all else, the great outdoors.

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