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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: February 24, 9:48 PM UK
Royal Bafokeng Stadium

Nick Bidwell

Name Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Year completed 1999
Cost US$48,000,000 (renovation)
Capacity 42,000
Home to Platinum Stars (football)
Trivia The original construction was completely funded by the Royal Bafokeng community, who in 1999 won the legal right to 20% of the income from platinum mined on their land

The Royal Bafokeng Stadium, the stage for five group games and a second-round tie, is named after its owners, the prominent local tribe, and is sited in Phokeng, approximately 15km north-west of town en route to Sun City. The ground has undergone a $48 million makeover for the tournament, an upgrade involving an enlarged main stand and new cantilever roof, floodlights and scoreboard. The Royal has something of a South American bowl feel to it, but it comes with one drawback: the athletics track, which keeps spectators too far from the pitch.

Organisers will be counting on fans making extensive use of the park-and-ride facilities to reach the stadium on match days. Hubs to leave your car and hop on a bus will be located on main roads leading into Rusty: between the town centre and stadium on the old N4; at the Kloof Holiday Resort 500 metres from the Kloof Interchange of the N4; north of the stadium on the R565 from Sun City; and at the Show Ground to the west of the central business district. Frequent shuttle buses will connect downtown with the Royal.

Where to go, what to see Travel west on the N4 motorway from Pretoria and, 110km of tarmac later, you will eventually run aground in Rustenburg, a booming country town located on the edge of the Magaliesberg mountains.

Rusty, as it is generally called, is by no means a vacation mecca in itself, but it is the perfect value-for-money base for visits to two of the area's most frequented hot spots: the Pilanesberg National Park and Sun City, the African Vegas.

Sun City used to be a haven for apartheid-era whites to gamble legally in South Africa, but it has turned over a new leaf in recent years and become a magnet for all races, promoting itself as an all-round family entertainment centre. It's brash, loud, slightly tacky but lots of fun all the same, and boasts hotels and two world-class golf courses designed by South African legend, Gary Player. Throw in the water park, casinos, cinema, bars, restaurants, shops and a raft of other attractions, and it is a sub-Saharan Disneyland in all but name.

At the heart of the complex is Lost City, a theme park featuring the Valley of the Waves - a vast pool and beach area, numerous water slides and wave-making machine - as well as simulated earthquakes, jungle trails and all sort of rides.

Hire car is the best way to get to Sun City from Rustenburg, taking the Rte 565 north. A monorail links the car park for day visitors by the main gate with the Entertainment Centre in the middle of the complex. Admission costs 70 rand ($9.70) for both adults and children, though you get R30 ($4.15) back in 'Sunbucks', the City currency, which is legal tender in most of the outlets there. Entry to the Lost City will set you back another R70.

Right next to Sun City is the Pilanesberg National Park, an artificially created game reserve, which came into being in the late 1970s when over 6,000 animals were brought in from all over the country. Nature may have required a helping hand in this expanse of 650 square kilometres, but for up-close-and-personal wildlife-viewing, it offers everything: buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinos roaming free, as well as zebras, giraffe, antelopes, jackals, hippos and all the twittering birdlife you could wish for.

Allow yourself at least a day to make the most of your very own personal safari as there are over 200km of roads in the park and so many species to marvel at. Pilanesberg is open from dawn to dusk, with entrance fees set at R20 per car and R15 per person, and the park has four entrance gates, the most used being Manyane on the eastern side and Bakubung to the south, just to the west of Sun City.

Another recommended day out has to be to the Hartebeespoort Dam, 40km to the west, where you will find great scenery and water sports as well as the souvenir-laded Welwitschia Country Market and the brilliant Upperdeck restaurant.

A town whose wealth is built on platinum-mining - it accounts for 70% of global production - Rustenburg will have two World Cup focal points: the FIFA Fan Park in the grounds of the Olympia Park Stadium - 2km from the town centre, close to the R104 road - where ticketless fans will head to catch the action on the big-screen, and the Royal Bafokeng Stadium

Known for its dry and warm weather in June - highs of 20 degrees Celsius - Rustenburg is no centre of cordon bleu excellence, but who needs nouvelle cuisine anyway? Food in Rusty is wholesome and tasty and you never end a meal wondering how to plug that nagging hole in the pit of your stomach.

The Waterfall shopping mall, 5km east of town off Rte 30, boasts plenty of good eateries, particularly the Spur steakhouse, the Cape Town Fish Market - go for the calamari or the crayfish - and the Piatto pasta joint. The recently-pedestrianised Fatima Bhayat Street leading from the bus and taxi rank in the middle of town is takeaway central, while one food you must not neglect is the region's heavenly citrus fruit. Other local specialities are the gut-expanding potjiekos stews and melktert, a delicious egg custard tart.

Those with a World Cup thirst should head for Castle Corner, a UK-style pub on Heystek Street, or the Keg and Bull, a highly-popular watering hole found in the Safari Gardens shopping centre 3km south of town. The alcoholic liquids produced by South African and Namibian Breweries are fine, but try a sip or two of the outstanding local brandy, known as mampoer.

Rusty will welcome you with open arms. Its people loved hosting the Confederations Cup in 2009 and they are counting down the days until the World Cup kick-off.

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