Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The Springboks may first have to qualify for the quarter-finals but if they do they could find themselves being given the keys to the magnificent England training base that must rate as possibly the best in the world.
According to the supersport.com website, the luxurious five-star Pennyhill Park hotel has been England’s training base for a few years now, but before the Rugby World Cup it was redeveloped at a massive R50 million cost to include a two-storey indoor training centre and outdoor rugby pitch that would be England’s own for the tournament.
Since England have suffered the humiliation of going crashing out of the competition, the hotel facilities, in Bagshot outside of London, will see the hosts leave on Wednesday and vacate their base, effectively handing it over to one of the sides in the quarter-finals.
The Boks will be vying for the spot alongside Wales and Australia and some are already suggesting the Boks have the inside lane to take over the luxurious facilities.
The two-story indoor facility includes a gym, weight area, changing rooms as well as an artificial 3G grass pitch indoors over a 40x40m radium, as well as a manicured full pitch outside. The pitch alone cost R22 million to develop and few members of the press have been allowed into the base, with England keeping their activities secret.
However, World Rugby has made it clear that one of the other sides will have first call on the hotel, which was built in the 19th century and stretches over 120 acres, close to Wentworth Golf course and 40 minutes from Twickenham.
Some in the local media have suggested this is the “final humiliation” for coach Stuart Lancaster but the Boks, if they are given the hotel, are sure to enjoy the many facilities, which include a Links Golf course on the grounds and outdoor heated swimming pool.
The restaurant in the hotel has two Michelin stars and is manned by award winning chef Michael Wignall, earning four AA Rosettes and often playing host to Hollywood celebrities.
Among those who are frequent guests of the hotel, Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake stand out, while more recently Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, Lewis Hamilton and Russell Crowe have had lengthy stays here.
The hotel also hosts several other “recreational activities” from Tank driving to archery, golf cross, clay pigeon shooting and interestingly, duck herding.
A decision on who gets to use the facility will be taken at the end of the pool stages.