Posts Tagged ‘rugby’

Bafana to Bokke… back to Soccer City!

August 23, 2010

A friend asked me earlier which was a better experience? Being at Soccer City for the opening game of the world cup between Bafana Bafana and Mexico, or going back to Soccer City for the first rugby match ever to be played at the stadium between the traditional rivals, the Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks?

A tough question to answer…

Firstly, I just can’t get used to calling it FNB stadium again. How could I? The old FNB stadium has gone through a complete metamorphosis. From the stark, somewhat foreboding, concrete caterpillar of the 80’s & 90s’s to the architectural marvel of the new millenium that has emerged from the cocoon to become the colourful calabash of Soccer City. For many millions around the world the first visual image they ever had of South Africa was when they first tuned in their TV’s to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010. I can only imagine what the Serbians, the Japanese, the Chileans must have thought of South Africa the moment our most modern coliseum filled their TV screens with the faces of thousands of yellow and green South Africans. Third world?? I think not! “Welcome to Soccer City!” is what the world will remember!

After many years of anxious waiting, and fretting like many others over our ability to pull it off, finally taking my seat at the World Cup opening game between Bafana and Mexico was a once in a lifetime experience. I vividly remember kitting up in my green supporters outfit, Makarapa & Vuvuzela et al, and heading out to the game on that typical sunny winter’s morning. I didn’t know what to expect. Did anyone? I remember the goosebumps I had the moment the UFO-like stadium first came into view as we came round the last bend of Nasrec Road. It was like those Umhlanga holidays I had as a young kid, driving for what seemed like eternity from the Joburg Highveld down to the Durban coast, and the rush of excitement I felt when my dad finally called out “kids, who can see the ocean?” and we would all screech out in delight as the vastness of the Indian Ocean rose up over the horizon.  The moment I stepped out the car and took in the massive expanse of the stadium that was about to swallow me up I think I started bouncing up and down like a little kid again. The events of that afternoon will live in South African folklore for time itself. Just being there, blowing my Vuvuzela as the teams walked out onto the field, to stand up and patriotically belt out our national anthem ‘Nkosi Sikelele’, and rejoicing Bafana’s  cracking first goal – the goal heard around the world – I have never felt prouder of being able to call myself South African. It was my moment, it was your moment, and it was bladdy well everyone’s moment! From Madiba to Zuma, from Francois Pienaar to Simphiwe Tshabalala, from the Boere in the platteland to the township kids playing in the streets of Soweto, from Pofadder to Mpumulanga, this was a moment when we could all call ourselves ‘Proudly South African’!

Now being back at the stadium this past Saturday to witness the two goliaths of world rugby, the old foes, do battle for the first time in the cauldron of the Calabash was also an outrageous experience. At the soccer I was a proud South African, yet, like many others in the stadium, the South African soccer culture was as foreign to me as the crazy Mexicans seated next to me. However, rugby is different. I am a Springbok rugby man by birth right. And like all fanatical fans I believe I could pick a better team than the coach (bring back Frans Steyn!) So being at this specific rugby match on Saturday was a call to arms, a battle cry – I just had to be there. I had to be there to witness the first time South Africa played rugby in one of the world’s most magnificent stadiums, I had to be there to be one of those 94,000 plus fans who made up the biggest crowd ever at a South African rugby game, I had to be there to drink cheap ice-cold Castle Lager beers (goodbye overpriced Budweisers!), I had to be there to pay respect to our Kaptein, John Smit, as he ran onto the field to a hero’s welcome for his 100th test, I had to be there to shout out “BOK-KE! BOK-KE!” in the most electrifying response ever witnessed to the All Blacks famous Haka chant

"BOK-KE! BOK-KE!"

, I had to be there to sing the Zulu/Xhosa parts of our national anthem which is becoming just as loud as the Afrikaans/English parts, I had to be there to boo the ref for his perceived bias against the Boks and apparent favour for the opposition captain Richie McCaw, and I most certainly had to be there to jubilantly celebrate as the might of the South African forwards bulldozed over to score the first ever try in what will surely be the first of many Springbok games at our new ‘national stadium’. And I don’t think anyone missed the Vuvuzelas (they were banned).

Sadly the Springboks lost! And like all Bok fans I despaired about why and how we lost the game. Without getting technical my main gripe is how could a team, which is mostly comprised of players from the two teams (Bulls & Stormers) who dominated all and sundry in this year’s Super 14, perform so badly in the Tri-nations? My buddy summed it up best “We simply got outcoached!!” Enough said.

The main differentiation between going to the opening game of the world cup soccer and the first rugby game ever at Soccer City is that we hoped Bafana would win, but in the rugby we expected the Springboks to win. The sport might have been different, however the stadium was the same, the atmosphere was just as stirring and the GEES and patriotism at the rugby was as immense as that opening game of the world cup. As the cliché goes, word just cannot describe it…

So what was the better experience? I can still sense that rush of excitement as the world cup kicked off, and my voice is still hoarse from screaming at the ref on Saturday. Perhaps the opening game of the soccer pips it… just… simply because it was a once off event, never to be repeated. No time is better than the first time, but the Springboks will be back at Soccer city.

Either way, I was truly fortunate to be at both games for such momentous occasions in South African sporting history.

And best of all it all happened right on my doorstep in the city of Gold… and Green: Johannesburg.

Jozi Fo Sho!

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SLUGFEST IN SOWETO

May 31, 2010

Rumble in the Jungle, Thriller in Manila and now Slugfest in Soweto!

By now we have all read, spoken and heard about the magic of the Blou Bulle’s victory in Soweto. The fact that the pinnacle of Southern Hemisphere provincial rugby, the final of the Super 14, was contested by two South African teams AND the two best teams in the competition, just added to the excitement of the final. The Bulls, temporarily dubbed the Orlando Bulls, after the legendry Sowetan soccer giants Orlando Pirates who make their home at Orlando Stadium, came, they saw, and they most defiantly conquered the Stormers.

I was fortunate enough to have attended both the Bulls semi’s and finals in Soweto. Even though my wallet was dented in acquiring a much sought after ticket (twice!), both these games were events definitely not to be missed. And just like Haleys Comet, a sporting event contested with this much historical significance and background might only come around again in another 80 odd years, if, at all.

The historical significance of the Bulls, the endearing symbol of Afrikaner culture and strength, playing rugby at the spiritual home of black South African soccer in Soweto, the melting pot of Black African resistance during the Apartheid years, cannot be underestimated. The last time many of the older generation of Bulls supporters were in Soweto could have been in their riot gear when they were police during the infamous and bloody 1976 Soweto uprising. A low point in South African history, yet what could be considered the trigger moment for the end of Apartheid 14 years later. How the winds of change have blown through!! So much for the better. It was besheert, meant to be this way, that the Bulls couldn’t play these games at their usual home, ‘fortress’ Loftus in Pretoria, as a result of FIFA’s world cup requirements. And just as the rugby world cup of 1995 brought South Africans of all colours and cultures a little closer together, so too did the ‘Slugfest in Soweto’. With this momentum building to the world cup soccer, the timing couldn’t have been better…

The goodwill and GEES (pride) was everywhere to be seen. For me none more so than when the South African Anthem was played. For a brief couple of minutes the endless deafening din of the vuvuzelas were brought to a halt as EVERY single person in the stadium belted out ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’. Yes, even the isiZulu and isiXhosa parts!!! I have been to many, many Springbok rugby games where the majority of the white crowds muttered (see my last post) and mumbled their way through the Zulu/Xhosa parts of the anthem. But this time was different! It was almost as if a certain amount of respect had been shown as one does when visiting someone else’s home. Personally for me, this was the moment of the day, a truly spine-tingling event! And straight after the last words were sang the vuvuzelas were unleashed with such ferocity to a level that probably knocked the Stormers off their game.

At the end of the day, this was a sporting event, and a massive one at that. The rugby was typically hard and intense. In the end, perhaps poetically, the Bulls flexed their muscles and won, to the delight of the majority ‘home’ crowd and to the many, many NEW Bulls fan living on the streets of Soweto.

What a day, and what a fantastic Hors d’œuvre for the WC2010 in two weeks time, when Soweto will once again play host, this time to the largest sporting event known to man.

And I will be back for that!

From the blue for the Bulle to the Green and Gold of Bafana Bafana… Mzanzi Fo Sho!!


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