Braaivleis, rugby, sun – and Soweto

2010-05-23 15:05

It wasn’t exactly the smoke from a thousand fires, but the

unmistakable smell of an unknown quantity of boerewors was definitely wafting

through the air around Orlando Stadium by midday yesterday.

Media reports and the ­organisers said it would be a sold-out

match, which it wasn’t exactly, either. But what the match lacked by way of

living up to the hype, it more than made up for by way of gesture, and what it

stood for.

And so barely three weeks before kick-off in South Africa’s

long-awaited moment of football glory, the Orlando Stadium made history of a

different kind.

Two rugby teams, and their predominantly white supporters – poured

into the stadium in the country’s most famous black township.

When Orlando Stadium was built in 1959, South Africa was a country

divided. Soweto was a name synonymous with unrest, violence and dark corners

populated by knife-wielding tsotsis – the very nadir of white South ­African


But none of this was in evidence as thousands of mainly white rugby

supporters made their way down Klipriver Road yesterday in their bakkies,

chartered kombis and buses.

Either way, there sure was a fuss being made.

The Johannesburg Metro Police and the SA Police Force were out in

numbers. Helicopters circled overhead. Black Nissan pickups from private urban

security firms cruised by slowly. It was as though President Barack Obama had

come to town.

Not that the whites were scared. They were here to support their

team, and from the look of many of them, would have gone to Mogadishu (Somalia)

if it meant seeing the manne.

There wasn’t a tsotsi in sight, a car guard, a pesky vendor selling

beaded rhinos or any other of the standard Johannesburg unwashed masses. The

riff-raff had either been cleared out or told to stay away.

This was Soweto at its gentle best, and so cameras swung freely

from shoulders. Poppies in frosty pink lipstick laughed uproariously and tossed

their peroxided manes without having to glance over their shoulders.

Back at Sakhumzi’s, a popular restaurant in Vilakazi Street, there

was no white-knuckling ­either. Here was everything you could get at Loftus

Versveld, maybe even more, like silver ice buckets to chill your Boschendal.

There was draught on tap, ladies chinked their glasses in celebration – and

there were no runaways (chicken feet) or gorilla meat hidden inside the silver

food trays.

Burly moustachioed Bulls supporters struggled through the crowd

bearing steaming plates piled high with beetroot, lamb stew and, of course,


The scene was festive and the jollity infectious, if a bit


A group of supporters on a balcony kept shouting “Amandla!” to

their bemused friends at a ­table downstairs.

Outside the stadium, 10 minutes before kick-off, a huge Tata truck

pulled up packed with Bulls supporters – the type of truck used on the

aforementioned game drives. The entire event felt like one long game drive –

­although it was not clear precisely who were the tourists, and who were the Big


Those supporters who had not wet their throats at Sakhumzi’s began

pulling braai stands and beer bottles out of black refuse bags in the stadium’s

parking, in age-old rugby game tradition.

Chris Botha and his friend, Thys Herman, both from Springs, got

into the spirit. The boot of their Opel Corsa was bared brazenly and blasting

out the supporters’ most famous battle cry: “Die Blou Bul”. The duo weren’t in

the slightest bit ­intimidated at being in Soweto.

Parked across the way, and ­also pulling out their portable braai

stand, was Herman Grundling from Alberton and his friend, Mitch de Souza.

They had been doing a bit of background reading on Soweto. Said

Grundling: “Did you know this place is apparently six times the size of


They were both sure their team would win, and they will be back in

Soweto for the final.

“I want to doubly experience Soweto,” grinned Grundling.

At 4.59pm a roar went up from the crowd as four planes made a

flypast, their tails spewing out smoke in the colours of the national flag. Then

it was time for the famed Blue Bulls dancers.

As skipper Victor Matfield led his team out onto the field, there

was deafening roar of vuvuzelas. This was to be one of the many departures from

convention which rugby teams playing in Soweto can look forward to.

Four minutes into the game the Bulls scored, and out of the sound

system came Mandoza’s Nkalakata. It wasn’t Loftus. And although the game was in

Orlando, black faces in the crowd were few and far between. But for many there,

this was a start.


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