On Saturday I was fortunate to be invited to the Castle Super Fan Experience at Growth Point Kings Park. It was a day that was very special for SA Rugby as it was the first time that a single venue hosted two international games on the same day. Durban crowds were in for a treat as the first game was between Scotland and Samoa which was followed by South Africa vs Italy.
The Castle Super Fan Experience provided us with the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes. When we watch the game at home, we often take for granted what actually needs to be done in order for us to receive the game to our screens. The tour kicked off early on Saturday morning at Berea Rovers Pub, where there was a brief meet and greet with the sponsors and other winners thereafter we were handed some pretty cool merchandise from Castle.
After grabbing a refreshment we made our way to the stadium where we were greeted by Supersport commentator, Matthew Pearce. Being a familiar voice on TV, Pearce is the lead English rugby commentator for Supersport. He gave us a run down on what to expect on the tour as well as warned us that we were entering an active stadium environment so to be wary of our surroundings.
I've been Kings Park many times to cheer on the Sharks and Springboks being allowed to enter via the pitch gave me goosebumps. Having that view of the stadium as you walk in, seeing the immaculate turf in touching distance and very aptly the singers were practising the South African national anthem, it made the moment very surreal. As we walked towards the players tunnel, many familiar faces were spotted including that of former Sharks and Bok flyhalf Butch James.
Making our way down the players tunnel was another special moment, thinking about how many legends of the game made their way down that very passage to lead teams in victory and defeat, there was a lot of history there. We then made our way up to the media lounge where Matthew then showed us the commentary booth that he shared with his co-commentator former Bok, Bob Skinstad. I was surprised at how small the booth was, the two of them barely fit inside! From there we learnt about how they prepare for each game, how they keep in contact with the director as well as some trade secrets about the game.
There was a Q and A session that followed with Matthew and Bobby, where we were allowed to quiz them on their experiences as well as special moments in games that they've commentated or in Bobby's case, played in.
Supersport then allowed us to take a walk through their HD truck which was brought form Joburg for the game. Impressive is an understated when describing the R104 million Mobile studio, it has more screens than mission control in NASA! The director has 26 cameras to view and has to decide which ones to broadcast and what angles to show all the time. I can hardly concentrate on two, so seeing the task that he has to undertake is just mind blowing and with millions of viewers the margin for error is very small.
Like I said at the beginning, we almost take it for granted when we watch live sports on the TV but after learning what goes on behind the scenes and the preparations, planning and skill required to pull off a smooth broadcast, one has to take your hat off to the guys that do it week after week.
Photography by Al Nicholl and myself.