Sunday Times

Great in­ter­na­tional rugby, lit up by a beau­ti­ful sun­set

- By KHANY­ISO TSH­WAKU Ted Nugent · Robert Loftus Owen Versfeld · New Zealand national rugby union team · South Africa national rugby union team · Iceland · Wellington, New Zealand · Belgium · New Zealand · Vodacom Group · MTN Group · Austria · England · Kurt Darren · Aphiwe Dyantyi

● 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.

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