For part two of my South African cities adventure, I journey to Pretoria, the Afrikaans stronghold 40 minutes north of Johannesburg and unfortunately, likely known to most of the world as where Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend. I’d been here once before to check out the sights but decided it was time to finally watch a rugby match in person. Having visited Soweto a week earlier, coming north to watch rugby was quite the polarizing experience.
Pretoria, serves as the executive branch capital of the country, Aka, the white house equivalent is here. The country’s president, Jacob Zuma, resides and conducts his business here. Pretoria is also home to the largest white population in all of Africa. It’s no surprise however as during Apartheid times, this city was home to only whites, predominately Afrikaans speaking. The city itself is nice, and resembles any other first world city. Not the stark contrast I saw when visiting Soweto.
Anything to do here?
Not really. Pretoria isn’t a touristy city. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone that’s visited SA and made it a priority to visit Pretoria. This is not to say Pretoria is a bad city by any means but rather tourists don’t visit South Africa to see its cities unless it’s Cape Town. Any attractions are outside the city with countless amounts of game reserves as it borders the Limpopo province. Nevertheless, I live here now so I have the time and there are a few things to see like the Union buildings, the Voortrekker monument, and a few museums. While Soweto has turned into a tourist hot spot, it’s done so because it offers culture and history most foreigners aren’t used to. Pretoria looks like any other suburban city in America not unlike where I live in Sandton.
Nevertheless, one place that the younger generation may want to visit is Hatfield Square. This is likely the closest equivalent to a frat party as I can find in South Africa. An open square filled with bars and college students, this place will get absolutely crazy on certain nights. Klipdrift (cheap brandy) and coke is the drink of choice in these establishments and they are dirt cheap at 25R for a double!
Blue Bulls rugby at Loftus Verfeld
Rugby is one of the major sports in SA and while I’m not a die hard fan by any means, I’ve accepted that I must at least try to watch it while I’m here. No better way to get into a sport than to watch it live. Anyone who’s watched Invictus knows the Afrikaners treat their rugby like Southerners treat American football, very seriously. On a side note, I would compare the culture of southerners in America to the Afrikaans people in South Africa. It just happened the local team was playing a big game on this fine Saturday so I was in luck. For a mere 160R, I got tickets on what was equivalent to the 50 yard line close to the field. Similar tickets to a big pro football match would have ran me 30 times that price in America.
The culture behind a rugby match in Pretoria is akin to that of a football day in America. Start early, drink heavily, and lose your voice cheering for your team. If anyone can drink alcohol, it’s the Afrikaans people. They drink like fishes and aren’t shy about it. In fact, alcohol is no longer served in the stadium as it always led to fighting among fans. Nowadays, there is a big beer garden outside the stadium serving drinks, food, and a live band playing American country music (hence the southerners comparison). Comparing this to Chaf-Pozi, the bar in at the Orlando Towers in Soweto that I went to the weekend before, the contrast was impossible not to notice. It was like two different countries. At Loftus, I honestly felt like I was at any old American excuse-to-drink beer garden except everyone was speaking Afrikaans. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that I was the only Asian person in either of these settings so I stood out either way. All in all, watching the rugby game live was the best thing I could do to better my understanding of the game and highly recommended for any expats in SA looking to do the same. Someday after I’ve gone to a few more games, I will write a comparison between it and American Football.
Not much else to it
There really isn’t much else to do in Pretoria. Again, it’s not a touristy city. While there are sights to see (I’ve seen them all now), some good restaurants, and cheap but fun nightlife, the logistics of getting here is too much as a 45 minute drive with any alcohol in the system is asking for trouble. If the Gautrain ran 24/7, I’d consider coming here more often but it stops running at 8:30pm! Nevertheless, seeing a rugby game was a cool experience and I’m certainly keen to go to a rugby game again.