On Saturday I went with a few mates to watch the Stormers take apart the Ospreys at Cape Town stadium. It was the first time I’d been to a stadium and back in the stands since South Africa shut down in March 2020. It was a lovely reminder of the beauty of live sport, the experience of a being a spectator, and the necessity of a crowd, writes Oliver Keohane.
People are funny, and I include myself in the universal ‘people’. Starved of sport during the pandemic, we’d watch anything on offer and just accept that the trade off for being able to watch our teams play through the television would be the hollow hum of a computer-generated crowd noise.
It was tolerable, until it wasn’t. Then came the calls for crowds to be allowed to live sporting events. Justified calls, that challenged the contradictory nature of all Covid rules and regulations surrounding crowds, capacities and events. 2000 people allowed at stadiums was dismissed as a joke by many, and rightfully so, but when we were eventually given the option of half-capacity stadiums, it seemed everyone had lost interest.
Watching recent URC and Currie Cup matches, one would not be amiss in assuming that the ruling still allowed only 2000 spectators, given the sad state of support at these stadiums. The irony in the bitter observations that characterised mine and my dad’s viewing from the couch at home, is that we remained part of the problem: on the couch at home.
So on Saturday when John Dobson’s nephew James messaged our group and said he had a couple of tickets to the game, it presented an opportunity to take some action on that issue, but ultimately a timely reminder of the excitement of a stadium, and the collective experience that sport allows for.
It was a great evening. especially given I had my first Chip n Dip since I was eleven years old and watching Jean De Villier’s Stormers. Among the four of us there were, expectedly, no Ospreys supporters and the experience of collective support for a team is at a different level when watching the action unfold live than watching it at home.
Watched the @THESTORMERS put away the Ospreys this weekend in my first live rugby match in over two years. We’ll be front row again for @BlueBullsRugby this weekend! #URC hopefully with a couple more supporters among us 😂 pic.twitter.com/MQ32ZZQhGI
— oliverkeohane (@OliverKeohane) April 4, 2022
Cape Town stadium, though it is not and never will be Newlands, makes no effort to emulate the treasured piece of South African rugby history, and rather offers a different but equally enticing environment. It’s a well run, world-class facility and it faltered only with the number of empty seats .
While there were perhaps only five or six thousand at the stadium, those who were there were happy to be. They screamed and shouted and created an atmosphere in a stadium that was running at 10 percent capacity. Imagine that noise was multiplied by five.
There has been a recent push to turn block 122 into a student stand. With tickets starting at R50 and pints at R40, I don’t see why this shouldn’t kick on. I’ll be in the stands again this weekend – as the Stormers battle the Bulls to lay claim to being SA’s top team – hopefully with a few more mates, and hopefully surrounded by a few more Stormers’ faithful.
These guys can't wait to put on a show for you at DHL Stadium on Saturday. We want you in the stands waving your DHL Stormers flags when they run out to face the Vodacom Bulls.
— DHL Stormers (@THESTORMERS) April 6, 2022
The last point I want to make is that watching your team live is a reminder to drop the cynicism that characterises one’s couch analysis. Sport is an all-encompassing experience, it is far more than the result and it is far more than the few camera angles we are afforded from our homes.
MARK KEOHANE | Come on, SA, be bullish and storm Cape Town Stadium on Saturday
That’s where the Stormers take on the Bulls, so for SA rugby’s health, get there and show the world you back our boys
— Robbie Gillett (@GillettRobbie) April 7, 2022
I am fired up for Super Saturday at Cape Town Stadium. The kickoff time, 2pm, has been scripted by the rugby gods and the match-up, at No 8 between the @THESTORMERS Evan Roos & @BlueBullsRugby Elrigh Louw, is one to witness from the stands @URCOfficial
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) April 6, 2022