The minibus throws itself into reverse on a busy road in Pretoria, after 30 minutes of driving in circles around the city.

“I don’t know where to drop you off,” admits Tehobo, driver of a vehicle hired to give fans free rides to Confederations Cup matches in Gauteng.

Sitting next to the driver, a South African fan named Tom activates the GPS service on his cellphone. Behind him, Leslie unfolds a map of the area around Pretoria’s stadium, which was given to passengers before leaving Johannesburg.

In the last row, a young South African fan tries to keep spirits up by blowing on his vuvuzela. At an intersection with several police on duty, the driver tries to get directions.

“My sister,” Teboho pleads, trying to get the attention of a policewoman in a flourescent vest, stuck between the cars of arriving supporters.

“Baby, where do we park?” he asks with more success. “No idea,” she replies.

“By the time we arrive, the match will be over!” says Tom. “It’s a mess,” complains Marcial, Leslie’s travelling companion.

Tehobo gets back on the road, following behind other lost minibuses that are used to driving only in Johannesburg but are now part of the “Gauride” network, a free transport system meant to ferry fans to the games.

The passengers finally pressure Tehobo into creating his own bus stop in front of a police station, just in sight of the stadium lights.

The passengers take Tehobo’s cellphone number, so they can call him after the game, and begin walking toward the stadium down poorly lit streets.

Fifteen minutes into the game, they finally get to their seats.

Pretoria and Johannesburg are each hosting Confed matches, but the two cities lie 60km apart and are linked only by a traffic-clogged highway that regularly turns the trip into a drawn-out journey.

On match days, 3 000 minibuses are shuttling between park-and-ride points around Gauteng to the two stadiums. The system’s slogan is “Ride with Pride”.

The return trip from Pretoria was just as chaotic. Tehobo had finally, with help from the police, found the correct parking spot.

But when Tom, Leslie and the other passengers called to find him, he couldn’t explain where he was — especially since they had to take another bus from the stadium to his parking lot.

The Gauride “is a good idea, but the drivers need better training. The dropped us wherever they felt like, and didn’t even know where the stadium was. How would foreigners manage?” said Leslie, a 24-year-old bank clerk.

Drivers did receive three days of training, where they learned how to get from the park-and-ride drop-off to the stadium lots. But several drivers told Agence France-Presse they had never actually driven the route during their training.

Sipho Mbele, Guateng province’s head of transport for 2010, acknowledged the system — which has carried 22 000 people so far this week — needs improvement.

“Gauride agents will be posted not far from the stadiums to give directions to drivers,” he told AFP.

Some passengers had better luck with their driver than Tom, Leslie and the others.

“We saved money on petrol. We didn’t have to look for parking,” said 38-year-old Yvonne, who said her mini-bus arrived on time and at the correct spot.

Another passenger named Jones added: “It’s like a Christmas present.” – AFP