Part 1: Fond farewell to a ‘holy ground’

Newlands Stadium will be remembered as one of the most iconic grounds in SA rugby, writes DYLAN JACK in the latest SA Rugby magazine.

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The Stormers will bid farewell to Newlands, one of the oldest stadiums in the world, when they move to the modern Cape Town Stadium in 2021. Although the final year of action at Newlands was disrupted by the coronavirus, there is no shortage of fond memories of this iconic ground.

BREYTON PAULSE (Former Stormers wing)

Living a farm, I never got the opportunity to go to Newlands, although I was a Western Province fan for many many years. Newlands is a special place. It really was an idolised stadium for me since I was a young boy. The first time that I went to Newlands was when I was at Maties as an 18-year-old. I played my first game at Newlands. Walking into a place like that was overwhelming in terms of the history of the place.

It has a reputation of being such a wonderful ground for Western Province over the years and I certainly took note of that. It felt like a holy ground – if I can call it that. As that game went on it felt like a blur, because I was in ecstasy playing at this place, even though there weren’t so many people there. That experience inspired me to want more. Having grown up on a farm and playing mostly on sand fields, Newlands felt like carpet.

I suppose there will never be a right or wrong time to move. It is inevitable, as much as us old toppies have sentiment and emotional value attached to Newlands, I understand the modern day pressures of financing. At the same time, it is not easy to see a place left, but I understand the implications of the financial trouble when it comes to sport these days. At least we as the old guard have the memories that we can think back to for the rest of our lives. We can only say thanks to that.

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JOHN DOBSON (Stormers coach)

I first went to Newlands to watch the Western Province vs All Blacks in 1976, which I think Province won. Morne du Plessis was the captain. I can’t remember who scored the try in the corner but it was a great occasion. The crowd ran on to the field and carried the Province guys off the field. I was only about six or seven years old.

At the time, there were other stadiums like it but because Newlands never changed, what stood out more and more was how great the crowd were. It was an organic ground, it was never purpose-built or rebuilt, it has just been tweaked over the years. Even if you go there as a youngster, there is a massive sense of history. It is overwhelming. I was a ballboy there for the 1980 Lions Test and the ’81 Test against Ireland. Carrying on sand for the kicker was pretty special.

Also what was quite funny was that the balls would go into the crowd and you would ask for them back but it was very rare that you would get it. At time I was too young to appreciate that the south stand was segregated. To a youngster, it is just one big crowd. My dad refereed there and I went there pretty much every Saturday. The Cape Town stadium is magnificent, but if you asked the difference between Cape Town and the FNB stadium, they are much the same, FNB is a little bigger but at both the seats are tiered as opposed to the ‘on-top-of-each-other’ feeling of Newlands.

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