Going to watch rugby the Middle Earth way

Written by Jan Dyman (JD)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks, Super Rugby on 31 Mar 2017 at 09:15
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Well it all starts on a Wednesday afternoon when you load the wife and kids in the ox wagon and set off on the long trip to Mordor aka Bloemfontein………….. well not really even though some of you might still think we don’t have any technology or cars here in the States!!!!!

Being midway between Bloem and Jozi, some traveling is needed if you want to go and watch Sharks rugby! Usually this will also involve a sleep over and some much-needed mall-time for the wife and daughters!

With the Loch Logan Waterfront mall (yes I know it’s Bloem and there’s no ocean near it, but anything next to a lake, even if it’s a man-made lake, in the Free State counts as waterfront) next to the stadium, safe covered parking was no problem and at only R16, also cheap. The bad part of parking in the mall parking area was going with the 3 women in my life I was “forced” to shop around in the mall before the game. Lucky for them I was not in a real hurry as I had already bought the tickets online (on the Cheetahs website), so I knew our seats were booked. Walking around in the mall, it was nice (well sort of nice) to see how the people of Bloem embraced the calls to make the city orange, as everywhere Cheetahs flags were waving and in the mall even the McDonalds staff were wearing orange Cheetah t-shirts.

After I was malled we migrated to the stadium armed with the printed copies of the tickets I had bought online (at a very reasonable R80 each). Entering the stadium was really quick and easy by just scanning the bar codes of the printed tickets, a quick frisk and in we went. Although some time was lost at the mall, we entered the stadium an hour before the match started. Finding and getting to our seats was also quick and easy. As the trip was with my wife and daughters we decided to sit in the bottom tier of the main stand that’s also one of the alcohol free family zones. When I was going on a Twizza run (as it’s the only cold drink that is sold in the stadium) another gentlemen carrying a couple of beer cans tried to enter the family zone but was stopped and refused entry as long as he had the offending liquid in his hand. What happened to him and his beer I do not know but it was nice to see that they at least try to enforce the alcohol free zones.

By chance, our seats were behind the Sharks bench which was nice as we could see all the players warming up before going onto the field. Watching them in real life during the warm-up (and especially up close after the game) it was noticeable that all the players, even the props, are all lean and in shape. Not one player looks as if he’s carrying a bit of extra weight.

Being in Bloem and at the stadium dressed in our best and newest Sharks kit as expected we got some comments from the local supporters. This however was all done in good spirit and was never more than just banter between opposing supporters. At the stadium I also got the feeling that the supporters wearing the Black and White were not totally outnumbered and whilst watching the interviews after the game I spoke to one of the Sharks supporting staff members. He seemed pleased with the support they got and even said that at times it almost felt like they were playing at home.

One thing that you do not get on television is just how hard the contact between players is when tackling each other! Even sitting in row Q, every time the play was on our side of the field you could hear the thud of their bodies slamming into each other! Tackling and/or getting tackled with that amount of force every week will for sure have an impact on your body. I was really glad that I was not the one playing as all that force would break mere mortals like me in half. It also gives you some perspective of just why players do get injured and is truly amazing that it does not happen more often!

One sad thing for me was the crowd attendance. The main stand where we sat was nearly full with only a couple of seats open although seemingly they were booked or paid as it was not available to purchase online. The open pavilion was however a totally different story! The bottom tier looked decent with a nice orange and Black & White spread. The sad part was the top tier! Now although I must admit that my eye sight is not as good as a couple of years back, I could see that not one person was sitting there before during or after the game! What made this even sadder was that on that side of the field you could get free entry by wearing either a Varsity sport supporter’s shirt, Bloemfontein Celtic shirt or an orange Cheetahs supporter’s shirt (sold at games for only R50 each). Seemingly even this proverbial carrot proved fruitless in drawing bigger crowds.

Entertainment was sorted with the Harley squad doing a roaring entrance when the Cheetahs ran on, the Cheetah cheer leaders and Wikus van der Merwe who did a quick song during the half time break and a show after the game at the Castle deck next to the stadium.

For the Cheetahs supporters (that stayed) it was nice that after the game part of the field was cordoned off for the Cheetahs players to sign autographs and take pictures with the fans. Some lucky Sharks supporters that reached the field quick enough could meet their heroes as they headed into the changing rooms. Unfortunately we were part of the supporters that only reached the field when only captain Tera and man of the match Bosch was left to sooth our lust for photos and autographs. However “’n boer maak n plan” and a few hard-core supporters (aka me and my family) decided to move around to the team bus and “ambush” the players there. After a bit of a wait whilst the players recovered, showered (I know they showered as my daughters remarked on how nice they smell and must admit they did not smell too bad) and presumably had a bite of “braai vleis” (not sure if it was Cheetah meat!!!!) they started to appear, first loading the equipment on the bus and later to load their own bags on the bus.

Now this is where I must offer a huge apology to Etienne Oosthuizen! As some of the fans “favourite” players appeared they were loudly called for photos and autographs and as I’m sure the rest of the players could hear the calls whilst they were still in the protection of the players’ area/dressing rooms. They knew we were outside waiting for them and must have prepared themselves mentally before leaving the safe sanctuary of the players’ area/dressing rooms. However when Etienne came out a dead silence awaited him with no one calling him over for a chat, autograph or photo. Standing in the door of the bus he gave the crowd a “sad/disappointed” look and mutedly asked in Afrikaans “soek niemand my?” (“no one looking for me?”) After he disappeared in the bus I was a bit disappointed in myself for not calling him over and talking to him or taking a picture with him as I do believe he is one of the players that make a huge difference in this Sharks side! Etienne I promise, next time I’m at a Sharks game, I will shout out your name and definitely (if you’re willing) be taking a picture with you! You’re an awesome player who does not get the credit you deserve!

As for the rest of the players I must really commend them on their reactions. After playing one hell of a hard game and by all logic should have been tired and just wanting to chill out, they all came out friendly and smiling, taking all the time needed to talk to every person calling them, posing for photos (even lifting kids over the protective railing for photos) and signing autographs. Even Lwazi Mvovo who was walking a bit gingerly after giving it his all did not hesitate one bit to “hobble” over for a chat, photos and autographs.

When I was posing with Andre Esterhuizen (geez the lad is HUGE) I must just share my youngest daughters reaction. She was originally not in the photo but decided late to join us. She ran and stopped a bit late (as she’s like me a bit clumsy) resulting in her running into the big man. I’m sure he did not even feel it but when walking away she commented ”wow he’s hard, it felt the same as running into my bedroom door!”

The dilemma I am faced with this week is not to convince my family to go to Jozi to watch the game, it is to find the money (as it’s not cheap to take your wife and daughters to the “big city”) and the guts to leave the peaceful calm of Middle Earth for the frantic never ending hustle and bustle of Sodom and Gomorrah!

Travel expenses – R 700
New Sharks supporters jerseys – R 600 (as far as my wife knows)
Match day tickets – R 320
Seeing the Sharks nailing Cheetahs at home in Bloem – Priceless!


  • Awesome story!

  • Comment 1, posted at 31.03.17 09:26:40 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Well done, a nice read for a Friday morning! I know you said your daughter is clumsy, but I found it amusing that she knows (and remembers) what running into a door feels like! Hehe

  • Comment 2, posted at 31.03.17 09:41:36 by Karl Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 1) : thanx Rob.

  • Comment 3, posted at 31.03.17 10:00:42 by JD Reply
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  • @Karl (Comment 2) : thanx. She knows how it feels as she regularly do it! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 4, posted at 31.03.17 10:01:55 by JD Reply
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  • Lovely piece of writing JD! Thanks for taking the time, really enjoyed reading it and still feeling a bit sad about Ettiene. Definitely one of my favourite players in the squad at the moment.

  • Comment 5, posted at 31.03.17 10:35:05 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @JD (Comment 3) : A pleasant, positive read for me this morning. Dankie mnr. Dyman, ek het hom geniet!

    I had to refund my tickets for the game this weekend, I have to go pick up family at the airport before the match 🙁

  • Comment 6, posted at 31.03.17 10:43:21 by Quintin Reply

  • Thanx Mnr Johan, great read, and I’m sure it was a great experience, thank you for sharing

  • Comment 7, posted at 31.03.17 10:59:28 by HB Reply
  • Excellent read, JD! Mooi gedaan…

  • Comment 8, posted at 31.03.17 11:06:11 by pastorshark Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Administrator
  • @vanmartin (Comment 5) : thanx. Ja must say I’m really glad EO got a call up to go to the Bokke training camp. He’s not one of those players that get all the attention they deserve as he’s not doing the flashy stuff but he’s a huge part of the engine that drives the Sharks performance.

  • Comment 9, posted at 31.03.17 11:35:07 by JD Reply
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  • @Quintin (Comment 6) : thanks and sorry to hear that you had to refund your tickets but enjoy the time with your family!

  • Comment 10, posted at 31.03.17 11:38:13 by JD Reply
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  • @HB (Comment 7) : thanx and yes it was an awesome experience to go and see the guys play live again! Wife and daughters are still talking about it!

  • Comment 11, posted at 31.03.17 11:40:10 by JD Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 8) : dankie Pastor! Was lekker om te skryf!

  • Comment 12, posted at 31.03.17 11:41:47 by JD Reply
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  • great article JD, lots of humor and detail. hope you or someone else does a similar right up for this weeks game in the big smoke

  • Comment 13, posted at 31.03.17 22:15:51 by revolverocelot Reply

  • @revolverocelot (Comment 13) : thanks bit unfortunately will not be attending the game this weekend so wouldn’t be able to do something similar.

  • Comment 14, posted at 31.03.17 23:02:25 by JD Reply
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  • Nice write up JD, glad you and the family enjoyed the metropolis that is Bloemfontein. I like what the Cheetahs union is doing to get bums on seats, hope the public warm to it soon.

  • Comment 15, posted at 01.04.17 14:12:38 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 15) : Thanks. Ja must say they are trying. Was disappointing that the attendance was seemingly so poor. It’s a huge concern as they could lose their Super rugby placed due to the “poor” support.
    Glad to see it was a lot better at the Lions vs Sharks game!

  • Comment 16, posted at 01.04.17 20:35:24 by JD Reply
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