BAGSHOT, October 14- South Africa have picked up a bonus from England’s World Cup failure — their upmarket Pennyhill Park training base to use ahead of this weekend’s quarter-finals.
Situated in leafy grounds in Bagshot, south-west of London, Pennyhill has been England’s training base for about 15 years.
It is a private hotel which accepts guests, but England’s Rugby Football Union have ploughed a reported £3 million ($4.5 million) into Pennyhill, including installing a state of the art Desso ‘hybrid’ pitch and the latest gym equipment.
But with England becoming the first host nation to fail to go beyond the group phase, following defeats by Wales and Australia, Pennyhill has become a tournament, rather than Red Rose, facility for the remainder of the World Cup.
This week South Africa are the team on site ahead of their quarter-final against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday. Seasoned Springbok great Schalk Burger was taken aback.
“It’s incredible. This media centre is pretty much bigger than my local club back home. It’s unbelievable,” Burger told reporters on Tuesday in a cavernous tent located in a corner of the Pennyhill car park.
“Apparently the guys who do the weights say it’s an unbelievable experience,” added the veteran back-bow forward.
Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira confirmed. “I’ve done weights in there. It’s state of the art, the best rugby facility I’ve trained in.”
Burger added: “It’s obviously a pity it’s not being used by England but that is life so we are happy to take this facility and use the best possible.” added the 32-year-old.
“All the waiters and the hotel staff seem to be South African. I have met about four and I think the English staff have gone on leave!,” he joked.