Sunny South Africa, my foot!

GLAMOROUS Brazilians in skimpy bikinis are staple fare at the World Cup but in South Africa you're more likely to see fans wrapped up in scarves and gloves as the nation shivers.

Temperatures have plummeted to close to freezing at some games, giving a totally different feel to a tournament usually played in blazing summer temperatures as players swap drinks bottles for gloves.

You have to go right back to Argentina in 1978 for the last World Cup held outside the summer months, since when football's showpiece has sizzled in the heat in hotspots such as Spain, Mexico and the US.

The South African showpiece opened in Johannesburg last weekend in warm sunshine but since then cold weather has swept across this vast nation from the north right down to Cape Town on the southwest coast.

In high-altitude Bloemfontein, temperatures in the coming days are due to dip well below freezing with the South African Weather Service issuing an alert for very cold weather and a black frost.

In Rustenburg the plummeting mercury prompted hundreds of volunteers at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium to muffle up for the New Zealand and Slovakia clash.

Bright sunshine during the day means England, based in Rustenburg at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountains, have been training in conditions similar to those of an Alpine ski resort.

But Samuel Ntekile, a security guard at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, had a warning for Wayne Rooney and his teammates if they manage to stay in the tournament until the later stages.

"It's freezing now but it's going to get a lot colder," he said. "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Freezing fountains in Johannesburg, where it was bitingly cold for the Brazil versus North Korea evening clash at Ellis Park Stadium, were reported.

One supporter, who only gave his name as Mas, made a 14-hour bus trip from his home in Durban for the game and said: "Me and my two friends have had to drink a couple of bottles of whiskey just to keep warm."

A race meeting yesterday at the city's Fairview racecourse was washed out due to heavy rains.

In Cape Town, night-time temperatures have dropped, with snow on the top of the landmark Table Mountain, though they are forecast to edge up in the coming days.

Defending champions Italy were forced to play through a chilly downpour during their opener against Paraguay, making conditions at the Green Point Stadium slippery, with players having difficulty controlling the ball.

Meanwhile, disaster teams mopped up on Wednesday after floods and a blaze hit more than 2100 Cape shack dwellers. - Sapa-AFP