Great international rugby, lit up by a beautiful sunset
● When Loftus Versfeld last hosted an All Blacks Test 12 years ago, the East Stand didn’t have a roof.
The roof didn’t give spectators protection from the sun but the 5pm start meant they escaped the Tshwane heat. Those perched highest also had a beautiful sunset to enjoy with the intense and physical 97th Springboks/All Blacks Test.
The roof is a recent upgrade (2010 Fifa World Cup) but the stadium’s shape hasn't changed. And neither did the atmosphere and the parking issues that go with sold-out venues.
Those who didn’t take up the few visible blue seats were unfair on those who missed out on the expensive tickets. They ranged from R380 (behind the poles) to R950 (East and West Stands).
The occasion’s magnitude wasn’t lost on the security personnel as entering the inner stadium meant one was subjected to a national key-point check. The pettiness came with the territory.
There was also the significance of the Springboks having beaten the All Blacks in Wellington to snap a nine-year away losing streak. The crowd had every right to be pregnant with positive anticipation that gave birth to positive excitement.
Loftus may be a home away from home for New Zealand but the stands were always going to have a heavy green hue.
There was a smattering of black and that’s all it amounted to while Vodacom’s branding was covered. The Springboks are sponsored by MTN and the rivals own the Super Rugby market share.
Marketing wars aside, the stadium DJ’s taste in music (depending on your preference) was interesting.
Where one would’ve expected Kurt Darren’s Span die Seile after the crowd disrespected the Kapa O’Pango,
Mgarimbe’s Sister Bettina boomed on the PA system. Maybe the song comes with having a black Springbok captain.
Wherever Steve Hofmeyr watched the game (if he did), he must have bawled into his beverage as his song (Die Blou Bul) is no longer the Loftus headliner.
The nice part about the watching experience at Loftus is that the ground has a quiet chatter rather than Ellis Park’s constant din.
It was a pity the 150-strong Gwijo Squad couldn’t make the kind of acoustic impact they had against England at Ellis Park in June. But they left an indelible pre-match mark on Friday when they camped outside the Boks’ hotel and sang along with Aphiwe Dyantyi. They and the rest of the crowd got their money’s worth.