In my planning for this trip, I had hoped to experience one of the local sporting events while visiting South Africa as I had recalled how much I enjoyed going to see a baseball game in Fukuoka in Japan last September. As much fun as it was to experience baseball in a different country and discovering the difference in the game experience, I was more interested in seeing a sport that I had not yet seen, and the opportunity would come in the form of a rugby match. To be fair, I had little to know knowledge of how the game worked before I bought a ticket to this match, so while back at the apartment, I watched a brief video on YouTube that helped to explain the basics of the game, which helped me get a better understanding of the essential rules and a little bit about the motions of it. My only regret was that I didn’t think to read or watch a video about strategy to get an even better understanding before going to the match.
Needless to say, I was certainly looking forward to seeing the hometown DHL Stormers take on the visiting Queensland Reds from Australia. After a short Uber ride to the Newlands area, I was dropped off just a couple blocks from the Stadium. This short walk would involve passing several tents set up for the preparing and selling of food before going into the stadium for the game, as well as some souvenir tents where you could buy a jersey, hat or other various items for the match.
Before going into the stadium, I went into the team shop where you could get the official merchandise of the team, such as jerseys, hats, jackets, and even rugby balls. I had never held one before, and I was a bit surprised how large it was.
Also outside of the stadium was a beer garden called the Castle Lawns, which offered a variety of beers and ciders including Castle Lager, which would be my pregame beverage of choice. This place proved to be an excellent gathering spot for fans to hangout before going into the stadium for the match. In many regards, the things that I experienced outside of the stadium made me feel at home as you can find many of the same things and experiences outside of many American stadiums.
As the start of the match got closer, it was time to go into DHL Newlands Rugby Stadium. The stadium is the oldest rugby stadium in South Africa, and second oldest in the world as it originally opened in 1888. The age of the stadium became more apparent with the narrow gates to enter the stadium, as well as the narrow concourses below the seats. Renovations to the stadium helped with the feeling of the age, but navigating the concourse would prove to be an adventure during the intermission as that wasn’t much wiggle room.
Before heading to my seat, I was ready for some food, and wanted to see what stadium food was available at Newlands Stadium. I saw that there was a meat pie stall, and was intrigued to try it out, so I ordered a cheeseburger pie, which had a hamburger patty with cheese cooked into a flaky pastry. I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed this even if it was probably horrible for me. It was delicious!
The stadium itself has a square layout with seats located on all sides. Where my seat was located, it obstructed the view of the video screen, but offered a full view of the field, so I wasn’t about to complain.
In watching the warm-ups for the match, I noticed that many of these guys were quite stocky and large. As I would imagine that being a smaller guy would be difficult in this sport, I don’t think I had really thought about what body type would be common for this sport. Yet after seeing them, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to get into a fight with any of them!
One of the other things I have noticed with sports in other countries is how the team’s main sponsor sometimes is as much a part of the branding of the team as the nickname. Such as the dancers/cheerleaders who wore the colors of DHL, the primary sponsor of the team and stadium.
In preparation for the start of the match, the teams were introduced and came out from the locker rooms. Of course the home team Stormers had a bit more flare with the addition of fireworks for their entrance. And while the stadium wasn’t close to a sell out, the fans were rowdy and really into the match, showing their support for their home team.
And much like American football, rugby starts with a kick-off.
As for the match itself, it was a hard-hitting affair. Some may be likely to compare rugby to the American style of football, and I would agree that is a fair comparison. What I didn’t anticipate though was how hard these guys would run into each other. There would also be several scrums and line-outs which were interesting to see after having just learned about it. The only thing was that there were a few moments in which I didn’t quite get what the strategy was, although that was likely due to my not really having looked into it, but I was at least able to tell when the Stormers were doing something well or when something went wrong based on the crowd.
There was even a moment which led to the first points of the match in the form of a penalty kick. Continuing in the spirit of highlighting the sponsor of the team, the kicking tee was “delivered” out to the field in a remote-control DHL van.
When the match came to its end, the home town Stormers would come out on top by a final score of 25-19. Much like at the end of a playoff series in hockey, both teams lined up to shake hands with their opponents. As part of the post-game festivities, the one of the South African sports channels conducted interviews with several of the players after the match right on the field.
This hard-hitting match was a ton of fun to watch, and while I still have much to learn about Rugby, I would gladly watch another match. Something that I enjoyed about attending this match was that while I do seek out experiences that are culturally different than what I would find back home, it was neat to see that even when it comes to different sports, there are many elements of attending a sporting event that are universal around the world, whether it be the pregame festivities, the atmosphere of a great crowd, or the sense of community that comes from people coming together to cheer on their home team. I was happy to have made attending this match a part of my visit to South Africa.
Up next, it’s time to dive deeper into the history of Cape Town with some walking tours.
See more of 2018 South Africa Trip:
1: Flight to Atlanta & Delta Flight Museum / 2: Arrival to South Africa / 3: First Day in Durban /
4: Second Day in Durban / 5: Last Day in Durban / 6: V&A Waterfront / 7: Cape Town City Sightseeing Tours /
8: Table Mountain / 9: Ratanga Junction / 10: Rugby at Newlands Rugby Stadium / 11: Cape Town Walking Tours /
12: Cape of Good Hope / 13: Boulders Beach Penguins / 14: The Last of Cape Town / 15: Cape Town Water Shortage /
16: Sightseeing Around Johannesburg / 17: More Johannesburg Sightseeing / 18: Botswana Day Trip /
19: Kruger National Park, Day 1 / 20: Kruger National Park, Day 2 / 21: Kruger National Park, Day 3 /
22: Gold Reef City Resort & Amenities / 23: Apartheid Museum & Rand Show / 24: Gold Reef City Theme Park /
25: The Return Home