Can Cape Town Stadium become new Bok fortress?
IN CONVERSATION WITH JEAN DE VILLIERS: The imminent move from Newlands to the Cape Town Stadium has evoked strong emotions.
While the traditionalists and staunch Newlands fans are baulking at the idea of leaving the grande dame behind, former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers suggested people should ’embrace’ the move.
De Villiers, in a chat with historian and author Dean Allen, said change is “always difficult” for most people.
The interview between Allen and the former Bok captain, who is also Chairman of the Chris Burger-Petro Jackson Players’ Fund, was part of their fundraising efforts.
De Villiers, 39, has 109 Test caps for his country, more than 100 games for the Stormers and 60-odd first-class games between Western Province, Munster and Leicester Tigers.
“I was extremely fortunate to live my dream at a stadium where I grew up watching the game,” De Villiers said of Newlands.
This year is the last season that the Stormers and Western Province teams would play at Newlands, before the WP Rugby Football Union move base to the purpose-built Cape Town Stadium in Greenpoint in 2021.
The Stormers had planned to make this year a special ‘send-off’ for the historical stadium, before the COVID-19-enforced lockdown put a pause on their plans.
With uncertainty about when the lockdown will be lifted, there is no guarantee they will get a chance to have that one last big fling at the famous stadium.
The Springboks were meant to say their ‘goodbye’ when they faced Scotland in the opening Test of the two-match midyear series in July.
Those matches – along with a clash against Georgia – have been postponed indefinately, so it is possible the World Champion Boks may already have played their last match at Newlands.
However, De Villiers, forever the bonhomous person that he is, said people should move on rather than get stuck in the past.
“Yes, it is sad that it [Newlands Stadium] is no more,” he said of the very “special” ground.
“The memories will last,” he said – adding that one of his fondest memories was playing his 101st Test at Newlands – beating Australia 28-10 on 27 September 2014, a game in which he scored two tries.
“It is sad that we are moving and as I said, change is never easy.
“Hopefully we can build a fortress at the Cape Town Stadium as well,” he said of the move to Greenpoint.
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The former Bok skipper said he was “extremely fortunate” to learn about rugby at the famous stadium – where he first played in 1994 as a schoolboy for the WP Under-13 Cravenweek team.
In an extensive interview – in which he spoke about where it all started, the many memorable moments within the iconic Newlands stadium and how he overcame his numerous injuries – De Villiers also spoke about the 2019 World Cup win and what that meant for the country.
He described the Boks’ 32-12 win over England in the Final in Yokohama as “close to a perfect” game.
However, it is the “phenomenal” stories that came out of the team that pleased him most.
He said the ‘rags to riches’ story of captain Siyamthanda Kolisi is just one of several similar anecdotes from the World Cup-winning Bok class of 2019.
“It [the Kolisi story] is a phenomenal story,” De Villiers said.
“There are so many others in that group that has similar stories – stories of adversity, stories of fighting through it to become our world champions.
“Siya did an unbelievable job and is still doing an unbelievable job.
“They [the players and the team] have been spectacular in the way they behaved and being humble in victory.
“But I want to emphasise the stories of so many of those individuals makes me proud,” De Villiers said of the likes of Lukhanyo Am, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi – to name only a few.
He called the tries of Mapimpi and Kolbe in the Final as “priceless”.