More than 30,000 fans flocked to Cape Town Stadium on Saturday to witness the Stormers all but clinch the South African Shield race as a planned protest by former union administrators flopped.
A grand total of 30,701 fans were at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon to watch the Vodacom United Rugby Championship match between the Stormers and the Sharks.
The turnout defied threats of a protest led by some disgruntled former Western Province Rugby administrators who claim to be unhappy about SA Rugby’s continuing administration of the union. Despite their insistence that the majority of WP clubs supported the protest action, less than 30 people turned up, according to eyewitnesses.
Meanwhile, Cape Town Stadium boasted its biggest crowd of the season as the Stormers wrapped up a clean sweep of their South African rivals by holding on to beat the Sharks 29-23.
The atmosphere inside the stadium had the feeling of a final, which is incredible considering both teams did not have any of their frontline Springboks available.
For Stormers head coach John Dobson, it was a relief as he admitted after the match that he was concerned the protest would spoil the day.
“I was worried that the team would have an interface or interaction with the [protesters] but I didn’t see anything,” said Dobson. “I would have been really disappointed if [the protest] affected the team and team’s performance. I think we’re one of the areas of Western Province rugby that is doing well.
“I’d be sad if that got disrupted like that. It was probably a reasonable outcome for us.”
The crowd that watched a nailbiting encounter between the coastal rivals was the largest to attend a non-playoff Stormers home game since the Super Rugby clash against New Zealand outfit the Chiefs in 2017.
“I said to the team before the game that I think this was our biggest crowd since 2017,” Dobson said. “And that’s for an ordinary league game, not a knock-out game and without the Springboks. We feel that’s great and a brilliant experience for the players.
“It’s brilliant and it’s shows we are in a new direction and we’re building something special here at Greenpoint.”
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images