The Proteas’ struggles in Sri Lanka were top of mind for the Vodacom Super Rugby players during their tiger fishing trip on the Zambezi River, writes MICHAEL VLISMAS.
It was while we were walking on a narrow hippo trail on an island deep in the heart of the Zambezi when the fresh hippo prints were spotted, and one voice in this intrepid tiger-fishing party asked the question on everyone else’s mind at that point.
‘Guys. Seriously. What the heck happened to the Proteas in that first Test?’
The news of the Proteas’ defeat in the first Test against Sri Lanka had drifted down the Zambezi like a makoro dugout, reaching our group of South African Vodacom Super Rugby players, celebrities and Vodacom Red clients who were enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience to enjoy a spot of tiger fishing on the Zambezi River.
For the trip, the group of celebrities and Vodacom Red clients who had won the experience was divided into two teams to encourage a friendly fishing competition out on the mighty Zambezi over two days. Rugby players Burger Odendaal and Jaco Visagie of the Vodacom Bulls and Jacaranda FM DJ Mack Rapapali led one group (named ‘Team Blue’), while former Emirates Lions player Jaco Kriel, former Lions and Springbok prop Julian Redelinghuys and comedian Rikus de Beer (Jonathan from Radio Raps) led the opposition, ‘Team Red’.
For the rugby players, it was a chance to swop running lines for tight lines, while the rest of the group was ticking off a Bucket List experience for any serious fan of tiger fishing on one of Africa’s most iconic rivers. But at this moment, as we all travelled along the hippo path, the fishing was for a brief moment not the only thing our thoughts were hooked on.
Even the T-Rex-sized hippo prints had become the new normal. Right now, it was all about the cricket and a certain Proteas series in Sri Lanka. And a few of our party of piscatorial professionals felt the need to express their support for the Proteas.
‘Don’t worry boys. It’s not easy in Sri Lanka and you didn’t have a good first result, but keep on working hard. The South African spirit and character – there’s nothing like it in the world of sport. We know that if you guys work hard and stay focused you’ll get on top again and win this series. And we’re all behind you,’ said Jaco Kriel, formerly of the Emirates Lions, who used the Vodacom Red Tiger Fishing Experience as a farewell to Africa before he takes up his contract playing for Gloucester at the end of this month.
Vodacom Bulls hooker Jaco Visagie spoke from personal experience when he said, ‘Keep on keeping on over there,’ although, with hindsight, many in his Blue Team could’ve mistaken his words for his own fishing success (or lack thereof).
Visagie attacked the water with the same passion he does a loose maul, yet he wasn’t able to hook a tiger. But the quiet man with the huge smile – and who, along with Burger Odendaal, wore the most fantastically floral and colourful shorts ever seen on the Zambezi – never lost faith.
‘My take on a successful sports career is to just keep on going. It’s not going to be easy all the time. I’ve found it’s actually the guy that’s willing to keep on fighting the longest that actually makes it in rugby. So best of luck on your tour, Proteas, and make us proud,’ said Visagie.
The celebrities also weighed in with their support. Jacaranda FM DJ Mack Rapapali, when he wasn’t pumping tunes for the party on his cellphone, advised, ‘Guys, go in and bowl it, hit it, catch it, swing at it, bat it out, do whatever to get that Protea fire.’
Vodacom Red client Craig Metzer took some inspiration from his own fishing experience the day before, when he didn’t catch: ‘Byt vas guys. Put that first Test behind you. Today’s a new day.’
And Rikus de Beer turned to his alter ego, Jonathan from Radio Raps, for his advice for the Proteas: ‘Boys, it’s wet, it’s humid, so finish up so we can go home. Do whatever you need to do.’
The trip included luxury accommodation at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa, sunset river cruises, two days of fishing in the Katamborra system with personal guides… and each member of the party being handed personalised fishing rods and tackle. And it ended with a helicopter flip over Victoria Falls.
The Vodacom Red Tiger Fishing adventure was part of a series of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and forms part of Vodacom’s Super Rugby Red Rewards campaign that sees Vodacom rewarding its Red clients with a number of exclusive experiences throughout the rugby season.
Don’t miss out on the Vodacom Red Family Day coming up in September.
Visit www.vodacom.co.za/redrewards for more information.