Tour of a lifetime

PUBLISHED: 12:45 07 September 2006 | UPDATED: 10:48 06 May 2010

British High Comissioner Paul Boateng talks to James Baxter, Richard Holgate, Mark Pittaccio and Darren Barsby

British High Comissioner Paul Boateng talks to James Baxter, Richard Holgate, Mark Pittaccio and Darren Barsby

SOUTH Africa is not a normal destination for a Datchworth under 17s away fixture, but that s exactly where they went last month. The team enjoyed a trip of a lifetime - a four-match tour of the country between August 9 and August 23. Coach Mark Pittaccio

SOUTH Africa is not a normal destination for a Datchworth under 17s away fixture, but that's exactly where they went last month.

The team enjoyed a trip of a lifetime - a four-match tour of the country between August 9 and August 23.

Coach Mark Pittaccio felt the tour was a brilliant experience for his players.

He said: "It was absolutely fantastic. We were able to go all over South Africa and all the lads realised how beautiful the country is. We went on safari, saw Table Mountain and everything. It'll probably stay with them forever.

"Its very rare to have a squad of players in a huddle when that's the one place in the world they all want to be - the atmosphere of the trip was amazing.

"We had some of the best nights you can imagine in night-clubs and of course the rugby was fantastic as well.

"We did see some poverty though, our first game was in a poor area - it was an eye-opener."

The opening match against Lagunya was marked by a massive deluge of rain.

Datchworth won 5-3 and were watched by British High Commissioner to South Africa Paul Boateng.

Mark said: "Before the game we had to pick up pieces of glass off the pitch - I don't think the other team would have cared if we hadn't bothered, they just wanted to play rugby.

"It was a miracle any points were scored the weather was so bad. It was absolutely horrendous, horizontal rain and everything, we were all completely drenched, but it was a fantastic experience.

"After the game we had some great fun, singing and dancing with the other team, it was incredible."

The second match pitted Datchworth against Jan van Riebeeck on a pitch situated almost directly under Table Mountain - the South Africans came out on top 29-7.

Mark said: "I told the boys how quickly they would run and move the ball, but when they came up against it they couldn't believe it. They were so quick and fast and we went two tries down pretty quickly.

"In the second half the lads got to grips with the patterns of play and movement though and did themselves credit."

In the third game Datchworth were beaten again, losing 29-0 to Knysna.

Before the fourth game against Itembelihe a curtain-raiser was played by two local under 15 teams - barefoot.

As a gesture the Datchworth players gave them some boots and socks after the game.

Mark said: 'We suggested it to the boys and they all opened their bags. We also ended up giving them rugby balls and I gave their coach a referee's whistle and cards.

"The young local boys were fantastic - they just wanted to run with the ball. One boy ran behind his own try-line, goaded the opposition and then tried to beat the entire team with the most outrageous side-steps you've ever seen."

Datchworth lost the game against Itembelihe 24-7.

Mark said: "That was a game I really didn't want to end. It was played in the most amazing spirit."

After the match Tom Wilcox was given the player of the tour award.

Scrum half Matt Hankin, 17, thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

He said: "We expected it to be special, but it exceeded our expectations. It was absolutely incredible.

"The first match we played was in a poor area - in England you're not used to that - but we were singing and dancing with the other team, which was fantastic.

"The sides we played were all really good - they play a running style of rugby and the pace they moved the ball through their hands was amazing.

"The whole tour was fantastic and we've taken some incredible memories back with us.

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