Rugby stars swapped tackles for tigers on the Vodacom Red Tiger Fishing Experience in Zambia.
Vodacom Bulls captain Burger Odendaal had his game face on. He turned to teammate Jaco Visagie. A few motivational words were spoken. And then it was back to the task of leading his team to victory in… a fishing competition.
The rugby stars were the impact players on a Vodacom Red Tiger Fishing Experience that brought them together with fellow players, celebrities and Vodacom Red clients who had won the opportunity of a bucket-list trip.
This experience included luxury accommodation at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa, sunset river cruises, and two days of fishing in the Katambora system with personal guides and personalised fishing rods and tackle. And to top it all, a helicopter trip over Victoria Falls.
But you don’t take a group of Vodacom Super Rugby stars and their most passionate fans and expect them to fish just for fun.
So the group was divided into two teams – Team Blue and Team Red.
Odendaal and Visagie of the Vodacom Bulls and Jacaranda FM DJ Mack Rapapali led Team Blue, while former Emirates Lions player Jaco Kriel, former Lions and Springbok prop Julian Redelinghuys and comedian Rikus de Beer led Team Red.
De Beer called on his alter ego, Jonathan from Radio Raps, to provide the perfect team talk for Team Red.
‘Boys, this is a bucket-list thing for sure. There are a couple of things everyone ticks off in their lives. One is going out in Benoni. Two is surviving Vanderbijlpark. Three is going tiger fishing.
‘Now the thing about the tiger is that you don’t need to worry about the tiger, you need to worry about the hippo. It’s a bit bigger than the average bullmastiff, and the problem is this thing doesn’t bark, it just comes at you. My best advice is that if you have a Chomp in your pocket, take it out and throw that thing away. You’re just creating a feeding place around you. Also, if you think it’s a tree, it’s not. It’s a crocodile. Don’t poke it.’
Day one (or the first half) was a test of fishing skills from motorised speedboats on some of the most majestic stretches of the Zambezi. The second half (day two) was a more personal experience of fishing from a traditional makoro (dugout) in the secluded and exclusive upper island system of the river.
Team Red seemed to catch a better bounce of the ball on day one as they cleaned up with a strong haul of 17 fish. For Team Blue, day one was more of a grind, yielding only one tiger. Team Blue made up some ground on day two, adding a further eight fish. But although Team Red couldn’t advance their score on day two, they’d done enough on day one to take the inaugural title of Vodacom Red Tiger Fishing champions 17-9.
As expected, Odendaal led Team Blue like the true leader he is, overlooking even his own missed tackle at catching a tiger.
‘I think I’d have a better strike rate at kicking a drop goal in a game than I do with my tiger fishing at the moment,’ said Odendaal, who actually delayed his departure to Japan to join the Kubota Spears on a six-month contract so that he could take part in this fishing experience.
‘It was awesome being part of this. When I heard about it and was invited, I already thought it would be something special, but it was really next level. The photos can’t really do it justice.’
Teammate Visagie was as on target with his casting as he is with his lineout throws and although he struggled to entice a tiger fish to bite, he was a constant motivation for his team.
‘As a rugby player, I had to grind it out and wait for the break in my career. My take on a rugby career is to just keep on going. It’s not always going to be easy and there will be a lot of challenges coming your way, but just keep on. I’ve found it’s the player that’s willing to keep on fighting the longest that actually makes it in rugby. I suppose it’s a bit like tiger fishing, you just keep on having that little bit of hope that something’s going to bite soon.’
Kriel used the experience as the perfect African send-off before he flies out to join Gloucester at the end of this month. And he was more than happy to take a win on his debut as a tiger fisherman.
‘I’ve never tiger fished in my life before this, but luckily we had great guides who helped us. It was such an amazing experience. Where they took us on the Zambezi is apparently a place not many people experience. It was amazing sitting in that little dugout having to balance yourself and try to fish. All compliments to Vodacom for a great experience.’
His fishing teammate Redelinghuys was just as impressed with the overall experience.
‘It was two incredible days. The one day we caught plenty of fish and the next nothing. But it was so beautiful and the local Zambians are so friendly. We had a great group. You could see everybody had a great time, and we were so spoiled, you felt like royalty.’
The Vodacom Red Tiger Fishing adventure was part of a series of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and forms part of Vodacom’s Super Rugby Red Rewards campaign that sees Vodacom rewarding its Red clients with a number of exclusive experiences throughout the rugby season.
Don’t miss out on the Vodacom Red Family Day coming up in September. Visit www.vodacom.co.za/redrewards for more information.