By David Skippers
On Saturday May 7, I experienced something which most rugby players can only dream of. I played my first match at the world famous Newlands Rugby Stadium and scored a try.
My club, Elsies River United RFC faced Hamiltons in a Western Province Super League B fixture at Newlands. The match was the curtain-raiser to the Super 12 match between the Stormers and the Cats and although there was a relatively small crowd it was still a great experience to play there.
For the record Hamiltons won 40 – 7 and although everyone in my team was disappointed that we lost it was a great experience to play at the famous stadium.
Since we learnt we would be playing at Newlands everyone in our club was buzzing with excitement.
This was the first time in Elsies River United RFC’s 13 year history that we would play at Newlands, the ground where most of the world’s greatest rugby players have featured over the years.
I’ve been to Newlands on countless occasions to watch either Western Province, the Stormers or South Africa in action and one thing which always struck me while sitting in the stands was the size of the field.
However, once you play on it, it’s the same size as any other field. But the condition of the pitch was unlike any other I’ve played on. To say it is like a field of dreams would be an understatement. The surface is like a carpet and not once was the referee forced to re-start a scrum because the underfoot conditions were too slippery, something which is a common occurrence at most club grounds in the Western Cape during the rugby season.
My first day as a player at Newlands reached its climax in the 30th minute of the first half. My team were awarded a penalty close to our opponents’ try-line. My captain decided to run the ball and set up a maul.
From there I would receive the ball from our scrumhalf and crash over for a try. The move worked just as we had planned it and I crossed over for the touchdown. I must admit that it was indeed a great feeling to score a try but I would have preferred it if my team left the field as victors.
Sitting in the dressing room after the match I remembered an interview with the All Black loose-forward Jerry Collins last year where he was asked which was his favourite because most international rugby players usually name their home ground when they are asked that question.
Collins’ reason was that there’s always a great atmosphere at Newlands. In all likelihood Collins always plays at Newlands when it is packed to the rafters, but Saturday the atmosphere was still great even though I played in front of a few hundred people.
The above article was published in the Southern Suburbs Tatler on 12 May 2005, page 24.