Cape Town Rugby Festival – a few thoughts

How any rugby fan could possibly ever complain about vuvuzelas after yesterday’s inaugural rugby match at the Cape Town Stadium is beyond me. At least they make you realise that you’re at a major sporting event.
As for yesterday, I have experienced more atmosphere on the moon. Not personally, obviously, but my good friend Buzz Aldrin assures me that it was one long party while they were up there, although bodily functions were a little difficult to perform. 
What a sterile occasion. Sure, rugby fans can drink a lot, but they are seemingly almost completely silent during big games. 40,000 of them, mainly white, quiet as mice for large periods of the game. When the stadium announcer has to organise and then continually propagate a Mexican Wave, then you know that something’s not quite right.  

In fact, the biggest cheer of the day was for Emperor of the Western Cape, Helen Zille and ineffectual City Mayor, Dan Plato, who entered the field pre-game to a bizarre Medieval-style regal trumpet fanfare, then gave overtly political speeches about how great it was to have a stadium, frequently interrupted by sycophantic and raptuous applause.
Quite where those speeches were for the football a couple of weeks back is beyond me, although every cynical bone in my body (and I have a few) is screaming something about the “wrong audience”.

Bryan Habana also got a huge ovation when he came out in the first half for a bit of a warm up. Later in the match, he came on for 20 minutes and didn’t touch the ball once. Obviously, he would have scored loads of tries if he had touched it though, because he’s Bryan Habana.

For those of you that don’t follow me on twitter, my son was horribly ill on Friday night and Saturday morning and wasn’t allowed to go to the match (Doctor’s orders). Both he and I were hugely disappointed. (Our plans for Saturday morning will also have to be rearranged). So he didn’t pass his World Cup readiness test.
The Stadium, on the other hand, did (I think). Yes – there were traffic issues on the way into town – mainly thanks to the disco effect traffic lights at Buitengracht and Western Boulevard – and yes, our seats were removed to make way for a TV camera position. But we got there in plenty of time and we were swiftly apologised to by Sail-StadeFrance staff and escorted to the VIP section to watch the game. Nice.

I haven’t heard much public opinion on the organisation for this event, but I certainly didn’t see any major problems. The traffic on the way out was amazing – 29 minutes from leaving our seats to getting home to Kenilworth. It regularly takes longer than that to get home from the rugby at Newlands, which is less than a quarter of the distance.

The stadium is looking superb, and despite the breezy conditions outside, was very sheltered within – no problems for the kickers. The pitch looked great and the players certainly seemed to enjoy the day. Even the Boland team, who were beaten 47-13. All in all, it seemed like a great success and who knows if it will help WPRU to do the sensible thing and move from Newlands.

If they do, they’ll need to import some more excitable fans, though.

Cape Town Rugby Festival set on flickr.