The Springboks may have demolished the Argentinian debutants in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship match at Newlands on Saturday, but when former Bok captain Corné Krige led a group of fans through the underbelly of the famous stadium a day earlier, there was a different kind of demolition on his mind.
With talks continuing on the possibility of officially moving rugby to the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point, Krige said fans would lose out on a lot if the old stadium was left abandoned or flattened.
This was partly because they were able to sit so close to the action on the field – an experience they wouldn’t be able to enjoy at the more modern stadium at Green Point.
“Newlands might be old school, but its atmosphere is phenomenal,” Krige told fans gathered in the stadium’s changerooms.
The 51 900-seat stadium at Newlands has enjoyed a rich history since it was first opened – albeit in an earlier form – in 1890. For example, it’s the arena where the Springboks scored a memorable victory over defending champions Australia in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup tournament that they went on to win.
But Krige also said that leaving Newlands behind wouldn’t be without some perks. According to the former captain, the Cape Town Stadium comes with a slew of facilities that will benefit the players in the long run – including better changerooms.
“The changerooms here are not ideal – the team is split up and there isn’t much room,” he explained.
Below the main stadium are myriad narrow corridors that branch off into dimly lit rooms that are beginning to show their age. But, as Krige was quick to remind everyone, this is “a sacred place”.
It was from these same changerooms that the Springbok and Argentinian sides emerged to the roar of the crowd on Saturday.
Krige said that in the final moments in these rooms before the game, players involved themselves in tactical discussions, pep talks and, most importantly, strapping up.
“Every rugby player has to spend at least 20 good minutes strapping up their various injuries,” he said.
One of the fans asked the injury-prone former rugby star: “Did they bring extra strapping for you?”
“I was sponsored!” he quipped in response.
While the Argentinians may have disappointed in going down 27-6 to the Boks on Saturday, Krige said the debutants were a team to watch.
“It’s a very passionate country, and they’ve been fighting for this chance for over 10 years,” he explained.