Soweto ready with another warm embrace for rugby
SOWETO has seen many a landmark day of triumph and tragedy in South Africa’s rich history, but Saturday May 22, 2010 is one that stands out as one of the iconic township’s finest.
It was the day the boerewors, brandy and biltong of the Blue Bulls and their legion of fans descended on Orlando for a joyous invasion – and on-thepitch annihilation – of New Zealand’s Crusaders in an epic Super Rugby semi-final.
Soweto’s place in Bulls rugby folklore was secured when the Bulls returned the following week to beat the Stormers to clinch the Super Rugby title to incredulous, delirious Soweto scenes.
Never before had so many fans of a sport traditionally supported by white South Africans come in such numbers for a rugby match to a black township – and been so warmly and heartily welcomed.
And this Friday night, rugby returns to Orlando for an exciting double-header that pits the exciting SA “A” team against the French Barbarians, as well as a clash between the local rugby juggernauts of the Vodacom Blue Bulls against the high-flying Xerox Golden Lions.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has long identified sport as one of the major contributing factors in uniting a very diverse province and he has been one of the drivers behind rugby’s return to Soweto, as the Gauteng provincial government partnered SA Rugby for this ground-breaking collaboration.
International rugby stars such as France’s favourite, Frédéric Michalak will be on show in Soweto for as little as R40 against an exciting SA “A” team with players such as Lwazi Mvovo, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Uzair Cassiem.
While the Bulls will relish their Soweto return, Friday night also gives the Lions, who have in recent years been South Africa’s most exciting rugby franchise, the chance to show and receive some love from what after all is their “home” crowd.
“The return of rugby to Soweto is not only about the 80 minutes of play on the pitch, but also about using sport to move the country forward and to realise we can get together and begin to find solutions to our challenges, the premier said.
“Our common love of sport has been one of the leading viable vehicles proudly bringing South Africans together, and rugby’s return to Soweto will benefit the growth of rugby both on and off the field.
“Taking the game to the township is part of the programme to support emerging township entrepreneurs by supporting local business and creating jobs. It is also about opening a two-way window of opportunities for those who have an interest in exploring the township and also for those who live there,” said Makhura.
The Premier’s Social Cohesion Games has been a major vehicle for Makhura to acknowledge the contribution of sport in breaking down barriers, while the premier also used sport and sport stars to tackle the challenges of racism, xenophobia and gender violence.
“Gauteng is the home of people who are not only passionate about their champion sporting teams, but who also have the love of the outdoors and atmosphere of unity. Just like previously when we had the rugby event in Soweto, we once more hope for a successful event which will go a long way to contributing towards our social fabric.
. The Lions-Bulls game kicks off at 5pm and SA “A” play the Barbarians at 8pm.
CELEBRATING: Fans visit a shebeen in Soweto in 2010 during the Vodacom Super 14 final of the Blue Bulls vs Stormers.
FUN: Fans enjoying themselves.