When I heard the Boks were playing in Italy in Witbank, I was genuinely excited as this would in all probability be an affordable opportunity to watch the Springboks live at an affordable price, while only being less than two hours drive away. We have had an article about the match, so this will be more about my matchday experience than a review of quite a flat second half Bok performance.
After struggling to find the stadium (there seemed to be no road signs to it) the day’s festivities kicked off with a customary braai in the car park. The friend we went with pretty much refuses to go to rugby matches without braaiing but no one was complaining as the boerewors and steak rolls added to the atmosphere on a cold Mpumalanga afternoon.
The stadium is admittedly not a world class sporting venue but it did have an element of small town charm to it, despite the stadium being nowhere near full, which would have obvioudly been a big disappointment for the host union, as they put up temporary stands (among other things) especially for the occasion. The fact that advertising for the match was virtually non-existent did not help attendance figures.
The seats we got reminded me of watching school sports on the cement pavilions, except these had paint markings on them so as to ensure you know where to sit. Having a quick look around the stadium before kick off the thought struck me that this probably very similar to a stadium in New Zealand with a knowldgeable and passionate crowd braving the cold and the cold cement seats and enjoying the rugby.
As far as the on-field action went. The Boks won this one at a canter and probably played at about 50-60% of their potential and this may be a symptom of the awesome win against the French where the players struggled to get motivated for this relatively smaller test.
When the Boks turned it on, the Italians could not live with them, unfortunately for South African fans, that only happened for about 20 minutes or so. I must say that one player in particular had a much better day in a Bok shirt than I have ever seen him have, which was Zane Kirchner, he looked solid (yes, solid) under the high ball, created the first try for Habana, as well as scoring the only try for the Boks in the 2nd half.
Having been to more than a few games at the bigger stadiums I must say that a test match in Witbank cannot really compare, with the infrastructure hastily put out for a one-off match and the lack of big match organisation evident when trying to do something like buy a cold drink.
That being said, the atmosphere made up for any downsides and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and would recommend SARU to give more test matches to the likes of Witbank, things can only get better with experience.
VIVA AMABOKOBOKO!! (and eMalahleni)Tweet