Duane Heath

6 000 Bok fans still missing

2004-07-02 07:18

Cape Town - The six thousand Springbok supporters who vanished mysteriously before last week's rugby Test between South Africa and Wales at Loftus in Pretoria have still not been found.

One investigator who refused to be named said he believed the missing 6 080 "just never bothered to turn up". He blamed the high price of tickets as the main reason for the mass non-arrival, but conceded that other factors, including the prices of food and parking, as well as the lack of a curtain-raiser, may have been responsible for only 43 920 supporters turning up for the Boks' last home Test before the Tri-Nations.

Eyewitnesses outside the Loftus stadium reported seeing people coughing up R40 to park their cars at one of the local high schools, while others at a nearby pre-match watering hole told of boerewors rolls and a can of coke selling for R25.

Another disgruntled fan, who had turned up just after 12:00 to "watch the curtain-raiser", was seen storming off when told by security guards that the gates would open only at 13:00.

"It's a disgrace," he was heard saying, "I was in Bloem for the Irish Test, and we had Free State and Boland playing a lekker game before the Bokke came on. Man, I tell you, the place was packed even before those guys dressed in the lumo leotards started beating those bladdy drums."

This week, experts from around the country got together behind closed doors to try and solve the mystery. They were given six weeks to come up with a foolproof "fan plan" to make sure the same thing didn't happen in Johannesburg on August 14, the day South Africa and New Zealand meet at Ellis Park, but one insider said "it could take years before we get answers".

Madiba magic not working

"I just can't understand it," he conceded. "We have a young and exciting Springbok team, coached by a man who finally seems to have a plan, and led by a youngster who went to school in Pretoria, and still we couldn't fill the stadium.

"The guys had just beaten a strong Irish team led by the great O'Driscoll, but it didn't seem to matter. And then on top of everything, Mr Mandela came to watch them play for the first time since 1995, but it seems even the old Madiba magic couldn't get the locals to come out from the packed pubs."

One rugby writer who attended the match was heard dictating into his telephone after the final whistle: "Madiba arrived, but this wasn't to be 1995 all over again. The great man waved to the crowds in the main grandstand, and gentle applause wafted back at him. Nobody bellowed "Nelson!" in reply as they did throughout the World Cup.

"Had Mr Mandela turned his back he would have seen an embarrassingly empty eastern stand, packed with blue seats bleeding into a clear blue sky. The stadium announcer tried desperately to plug all the gaps, but without a roof, any crumb of big-game atmosphere simply evaporated into the Pretoria skies."

Rugby officials said that despite the fact that nearly a week had passed since the fans' disappearance, the nationwide search for them had not yet been called off. However, sources close to the investigation admitted privately that they had given up any hope of finding the missing supporters "until the Springboks have beaten the All Blacks".

Anyone with any information leading to a sold out stadium the next time the Boks play, is asked to please phone the SA Rugby Football Union.

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