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A fantastic Hockey and Netball Tour to South Africa

On Saturday 8th July, 15 girls and 3 staff set off for the trip of a lifetime to play hockey and Netball in South Africa.

We arrived at the Konka Camp, just outside Johannesburg and were treated to a traditional brai (barbecue) before an early night. The next morning we were up early to take part in a range of team building activities - a great opportunity for the girls from different year groups to get to know one another better before the tour began in earnest. We then transferred to St Mary’s School for our first round of fixtures. The Netball squad performed brilliantly to secure a 28-17 win. The hockey squad found things a little trickier, having recruited a number of new players who were still finding their feet. They put in a brave performance but a strong St Mary’s side won 8-0. There were no hard feelings though and girls from both schools immediately bonded during the after match function.

We spent the next two days based out of the High Performance Centre in Pretoria. This was a great opportunity to experience the top level facilities and rub shoulders with elite athletes. A busy morning saw the girls training for both sports before heading out for a well earned team meal at Nando's. The girls then took on Rodean School in their second set of fixtures. An enthralling Netball match resulted in an 18-18 draw, a fair result for the two excellent teams. Again, the hockey was trickier and after a wobble in the first half the girls found themselves 6-0 down at half time. However, after a positive team talk, the girls solidified their defence and maintained a clean sheet in the second half to finish with a 6-0 loss.

From here, we then travelled west to the Pilanesburg Game Reserve. Our evening game drive was one of the highlights of the trip, including close encounters with rhinos, lions and elephants, something which the girls will never forget. After an early start, we had a second game drive in the morning and an opportunity to watch the spectacular African sunrise. We then made our way to the Valley of the Waves at Sun City. Whilst some preferred to get some much needed rest and relaxation on the beach, others made use of the wave pool and range of terrifying waterslides to entertain themselves for the afternoon.

It was then time for the second leg of the tour in Cape Town. After a second training session, we then headed to the famous V&A Waterfront for some retail therapy. The following day was another highlight of the trip - a boat trip to Seal Island, a visit to the penguin colony on Boulders Beach and a cable car ride up Table Mountain to take in the spectacular views over the city. We continued our sightseeing the following day but stayed a little closer to home, visiting the Aquarium before taking the open top bus tour. This allowed stops at a traditional African market as well as the upmarket beach resort of Camps Bay.

Another rocky boat trip took us out to Robben Island where we were lucky enough to visit Nelson Mandela’s former cell on what would have been his 99th birthday. The boat trip also provided another opportunity for nature spotting with whales and dolphins both making an appearance. We then got back to business with our third set of fixtures against Reddam House school - a team which we had also played on the previous tour in 2014. Despite an excellent first quarter in the Netball, some of the earlier seasickness crept back in as the match progressed so unfortunately the girls lost 43-24. The hockey showed a massively improved performance for the squad, with some of our beginners starting to look at home on the pitch. Despite a fantastic team performance, Reddam managed to sneak a goal in the last minute to win the game 1-0, but the girls were still really pleased with their performance.

Another favourite on the trip was the excursion to the Cheetah Outreach Centre. Here the girls had the once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to some cheetahs and their cubs and take some great photos in the process. From here we had a brief stop in the pretty town of Stellenbosch for some more shopping and lunch.

Our final set of fixtures was against Wynberg Girls - also known as WGHS! Bad weather meant that the Netball had to be played in the school gym. This made for an interesting experience with the smaller court and ability to play the ball off the walls! The girls picked it up quickly though and played some outstanding Netball against a tough opposition, but the game finished as 34-28 loss. The Wynberg Hockey squad were also very strong and despite their best efforts, the Wakefield Girls were unable to contain them, leading to a 7-0 loss.

Our final day was a visit to a local orphanage. The girls donated gifts of stationary and caps before spending the morning tidying the yard and helping with the vegetable patch. In the afternoon we visited the local park where the girls lead a range of activities for the children of the township. This was a truly invaluable experience for the girls and they all thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the children. We finished our final day with a team meal at the waterfront, as well as an awards ceremony.

We were then faced with a 34 hour journey home, but the girls stayed patient and were glad to finally arrive back at school to be greeted by their parents. This was another fantastic tour with the girls learning about another country, experiencing another culture and making new friendships along the way.

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