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Love lost at Newlands?

A beloved leaves. That's the stuff of some of the great poetry, the great novels, great works of art, for it creates some of the greatest anguish man can experience.

It is true when a loved one dies or just goes somewhere else or finds someone else to love. Losing a loved one is painful, and it may just have happened to me last Saturday. Even though I have seen it coming, it seemed somehow so much worse last Saturday.

I first went to Newlands in 1945. I fell in love then and have been in love ever since. And then last Saturday it seemed to leave me. It had changed and gone somewhere else.

Not to Green Point – which heaven forbid – but just changed and gone.

Newlands to me was a place of heroes – George van Reenen, Nols van Heerden, Bubbles Koch, the Fry Brothers, Cecil Moss, Hennie Muller and Otto van Niekerk, Tjol Lategan and Ryk van Schoor, Tank van Dyk and Bull Bisogno, Piet Kriel in a list that goes on and on and onto Jan Pickard, John Gainsford and Doug Hopwood, HO de Villiers, and Morné du Plessis and Carel du Plessis and his brothers, Agie Koch and Rob Louw, Divan Serfontein, Hennie Bekker, Theuns Stofberg, Gert Smal and then Danie Gerber and Chester Williams – names that crop up without even thinking. It was a place where we cheered them on and chased them afterwards for autographs. It was a palace of dreams.

It had sporting customs – a double round of applause for a great try, silence when a kicker kicked. When Rhodesia beat Western Province in 1947, I helped to carry their fullback, John Kitcat off the field. When the Wallabies beat the Springboks in dramatic fashion in 1953, they, too, were carried off. Newlands was that sort of place.

But so much has gone. There are no more five matches every Saturday from April to September – three on the A Field, two on the B Field. The tradition of Newlands, it seems, is being drained away as a result. Now it's all big occasion stuff where anybody can wear the colours, where raucous jeering and booing fills the air from the time that the visiting teams comes out to warm up till after the final whistle. There are beautiful sounds at rugby – the whistle to start, the special whistle for a try, the thwack of boot on ball, the spontaneous shout of encouragement, the rising excitement as a try looks possible and the cheering when it is scored – that sort of thing. Booing is surely the ugliest sound possible at a rugby football match.

Not that the 'old days' were perfect. She was not dressed as elegantly but her heart and soul were right. Now she is far more elegantly dressed but it seems that the man who pays his money may use her as he wills.

Last Saturday I was there when a referee booed and jeered at – almost always when he was right and every booer wrong. The booing of a visiting kicker when he kicked at goal went on, seemingly louder than ever and with self-congratulatory cheers when he missed.

I sat on the lower deck of the Grand Stand. Down at the front of me was a large man with a huge voice. When the Blue Bull coaches came down to go to their team at half-time, he hurled loud insults at them. When the match ended he did the same. That was the new Newlands way of welcoming visitors it seems.

And somehow in all of this I lost my love. My love went away. No longer the love of a lifetime. It was such a sad, sad Saturday.

By Paul Dobson



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