Sunday, May 23, 2010


When people talk about soccer and the World Cup in South Africa, 90% of the time the conversation is about how stressful it will be, what a disaster it will be, how ill-prepared the country is, etc. (I don't actually think it will be a disaster or that the country isn't prepared, although I'll be surprised if the M5 intersection is ready by World Cup 2014, let alone three weeks from now. There are some valid criticisms though -- mostly that a country with like 30-40% unemployment has built a bunch of enormous soccer arenas that won't have a clear purpose in 7 weeks). Aside from government-sponsored SABC programming, I hear almost no one hyping the World Cup as something that will be fun or being excited for Bafana Bafana games. Not that The Boys The Boys stand a chance.

What people are into, though, is rugby. The current big league that is happening is the Super 14, with 5 SA teams, 5 New Zealand teams, and 4 Australian teams. They played a round robin season with one game per week. The top four teams advanced to the semifinals, which happened yesterday. And I went and watched! The Western Cape team, the Stormers, have supposedly been bad for a number of years. Somehow, though, they put together a good season this year and hosted one of the semifinals games at Newlands in the southern suburbs. We decided to go.

On Friday afternoon, spent some time on, sort of a SA craigslist, since the game was sold out. Talked to a few people and found someone that would sell us some tickets. Saturday morning, while I was running other errands, I went into Cape Town to meet the guy and buy the tickets. Also managed to pick up a couple Stormers hats from a dude selling them at a stoplight. A few hours later, we were rushing to close up the farm and get on the road. Thankfully there was no traffic going to the stadium -- everyone was already in place watching the other semis game that was taking place (the Bulls from Pretoria won it).

We got to Newlands, which is a nice big stadium - 52,000 people - though it does a good job of blending in with the surrounding area. I've driven by there plenty and had never really noticed it. The game was fun. Kris and I went with Simon from Backsberg and his buddy from college. I spent the whole time asking lots of questions, since my rules knowledge is spotty. Plus, rugby seems to do a bad job of explaining what is going on (what the penalties or for, who will get possession, etc). Of the fan antics, my two favorites were some extended (and quite catchy) song about the Stormers that was mostly in Afrikaans, and the chant "Hier kom 'n ding! Hier kom 'n ding!" Translated, that means "here comes a thing! here comes a thing!" We badly need that chant in American sports.

There was a lot of defense and a lot of kicking in the game, though we had a great view of the one try by the Stormers. For a half, we also had a view of the "VodaBabes," the cheerleaders/dancers who apparently were created in a Vodacom laboratory and are corporate entities.

The Stormers won! They go play the Bulls in Soweto next week for the championship. Should be fun to watch (on tv this time). People will be really excited about the all-SA final this week before then focusing all their energy on complaining about the World Cup.

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