Go Sports! Or: How One American Managed to Fool Everyone Into Thinking She Belonged at a Rugby Game

“Football is a hooligan’s sport played by gentlemen. Rugby is a gentleman’s sport played by hooligans.”

Inching closer to our role as seasoned expats, Chas and I had the chance to attend our first rugby game on Saturday afternoon. The Newlands Stadium is actually not too far from our flat, and from time to time, we can hear the crowds from our garden.   newlands rugby stadium

We saw the Cape Stormers play the Chiefs from New Zealand. It was a fun afternoon, although we didn’t really understand what was happening most of the time. It’s difficult to get used to the fact that the game is still in play when a person falls down with the ball. Also, they throw the ball backwards. That’s weird.

Now that I’m an expert on rugby and on sports in general, I figure it’s my duty to pass on the glory of rugby to the rest of the western world (although I found out that the U.S. Rugby headquarters is actually in Boulder, Colorado…).

Five reasons why rugby is worth a watch:

1. It is only a couple of hours long.

It was so so so hot in the stadium and we were sitting right in the sun. Sunscreen-mixed sweat constantly rolling into my eyes is not my idea of a fun afternoon, but rugby halves are only 40 minutes long with a 5-minute break in between.

Being there reminded me of why, by my senior year of college, I would opt for tailgating and a nap in an air-conditioned apartment over standing in a hot stadium for four hours of watching football. But, we were in and out of the rugby game in about 2 hours. And we sat. I can get into that.

newlands rugby cape town stormers

2. You don’t have to fully understand what’s going on to still appreciate what you’re watching.

I love that rugby players can hoist each other into the air to catch a ball. One minute you’re watching people slam into one another (without padding, I should add), and then everything pauses for what looks like a well-executed iceskating move.

There’s also something they do where both teams all huddle together close to the ground and…push each eachother? I’m sure there is some very basic game rules to what is happening, but to me, it looks like a giant spider with about 18 legs, which made me very happy every time it happened.

3. There was a history to this particular game.

Our friend James told us that the Cape Town and New Zealand rugby teams actually have an interesting rivalry that dates back to apartheid. During apartheid, many Capetonians did not want to support the Stormers because they saw it as a way of supporting a city and country that operated under a system of racial segregation. As a way of protesting, many of those fans began supporting the New Zealand Chiefs. And while apartheid has ended, some of the loyalty to the team has remained.

4. It’s every (wo)man’s game.

In a city that often feels still very much segregated, there are certain times when you’re acutely aware of the welcome diversity. We’ve noticed it at beaches, out hiking, and then this weekend at the rugby game. I love that.

5. They give you Stormer flags.

Uses for flags include: waving when something exciting happens, covering your bare legs from the sun (did I mention it was hot?), covering your neck from the sun (did I mention it was hot?), occasionally just giving up and covering your whole face from the sun (did I mention it was hot?).

newlands rugby stadium cape town stormers

The Stormers lost. But who cares? Go Stormers! Go rugby! Go South Africa! Go sports! Go sun! Go diversity!

We’re crossing off another first this weekend—a safari in Kruger National Park! We’ll be meeting my parents in Joburg tomorrow evening, and then head to Kruger for a short safari before they come back with us to explore Cape Town next week. Can’t wait to snuggle a zebra. That’s what you do on these things, right?



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