Having studied and then lived in Cape Town for a number of years, Newlands is very likely my second-most visited rugby ground (after the now derelict Boet Erasmus in Port Elizabeth). Outside of the numerous provincial and Super rugby games we watched over the years, I went every year to watch Newlands’s annual Test. That Test alternated between being a then Tri-Nations match against Australia or New Zealand and the June international against one of England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland.
Back at university, all we could afford were the R80 (£4 / $7) standing tickets behind the poles and one only hoped there was some action at your end! There is a very rich history to the stadium given how old it is while the crowded nature of the stands being right on the touchlines creates an incredible atmosphere when at capacity of 48,000.
We began our day with a delicious breakfast at Vovotello’s at the Waterfront before visiting the fairly new Springbok Experience Museum, which is also situated at the Waterfront (look out for the rugby posts across the road from Ferryman’s if you’re unsure where to find it). The Museum is interactive, highly informative and generally extremely well done.
It describes how rugby first started in the country and then takes you through some 100+ years of Springbok history. The information is conveyed through a mix of information boards, TV screens with match footage and player interviews and also interactive displays while naturally there is a huge amount of fantastic memorabilia on display. I was certainly in my element with all the stats!
After a traditional pre-match pint or two at Forrester’s Arms, or Forries as it’s affectionately known by all who visit regularly, we headed to Newlands and the walk brought back a flood of memories having last watched a game here some eight years ago. The sky was clear, the sun was out and there was a fantastic buzz around the stadium as we made our way in.
The Wallabies last won at Newlands way back in 1992 when they beat the Springboks 26 – 3 in only our second international appearance after years of isolation. Over the past 22 years they’ve lost six consecutive games but for large parts of Saturday’s game it looked like they would break that drought.
The Boks were on the front foot for the first 20 minutes, though, and they took a deserved lead in the 13th minute courtesy of flanker Marcell Coetzee’s try from a rolling maul. The Wallabies came back strongly in the second quarter and a penalty and then a try just before half-time ensure they had all the momentum going into the tunnel (unusually in fact the Wallabies actually stayed on the field for their half-time talk).
The Boks continued to play poorly in the second half and made far too many unforced errors while the Wallabies also looked dangerous with ball in hand. Replacement fly half Pat Lambie missed a sitter of a penalty mid-way through the second half and with 10 minutes left to play, Australia were ahead 10 – 8. Lambie made amends soon after, however, slotting a drop-goal after a sustained passage of Springbok pressure to give the Boks the lead as Newlands let out a collective sigh of relief.
No-one could have predicted how things would unfold from there and in a whirl-wind final 10 minutes, the Boks went over for three tries to not only secure the win but also the bonus point. An initially relieved Newlands became louder and louder as each try was scored and when local boy and captain Jean de Villiers went over for his second try of the match in the last movement of the game, Newlands erupted.
It was unreal to be back at Newlands after so many years and to witness the Boks win it like they did was unbelievable. We celebrated with a few cold Hansa’s at the Toad just down the road before ending the evening with a Steers burger from the Engen petrol station – some things never change and it was so good to be home!