For any of you who don’t follow rugby or the Super 14, here’s a little history:
The Super 14, which started in 1996, is the largest rugby championship in the southern hemisphere, consisting of four teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The fourteen sides all play against one another for fourteen weeks. Then, the teams in the top four places on the log enter a knockout phase. Two semi-finals are contested to decide the two finalists, which is played at the highest ranked winner’s home ground.
In one of this year’s semi finals, the Bulls (from Pretoria, South Africa) will be playing the Crusaders (from Canterbury, New Zealand). The match should have been held in Pretoria, at Loftus Versveld – the home of the Bulls. However, due to ongoing preparations for the FIFA World Cup (Loftus is one of the official stadiums) an alternate venue had to be found.
The Bulls could have chosen any stadium in Gauteng – but they chose Orlando stadium in Soweto. This is the home of Orlando Pirates and what is considered in South Africa as a traditional football (and mainly “black”) stronghold. And herein lays the tremendous significance. For many Bulls supporters, this will be their first visit to Soweto. Yes, sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Soweto is just an hour away from Pretoria but it is still considered a no-go area by many.
For the first time since the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, will South Africans, both black and white, be asked to unite under one banner. The mostly Afrikaans Bulls team, playing what is considered a largely Afrikaners sport in a traditional “black” township! Brilliant!
Victor Matfield, captain of the bulls tweeted, “Tickets sold out. Its going to feel like Loftus in Soweto with all the blue flags. Its going to be awesome. Thanks to all the supporters.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was also excited, “The decision by the powers that be at the Bulls, when their home ground became unavailable, to shift the match to Soweto rather than another more traditional rugby venue, should be applauded by all South Africans,” he said.
Whatever the result tomorrow, South Africans have already won. We are showing all our politicians and the world that it is us who define our country and our relationships. Not Julius, not Eugene, not the ANC, not the DA. Us “normal” sport loving South Africans. GO BULLS (oh, and good luck to the Stormers who play the Waratahs in Cape Town).