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Ken Borland

Like a throwabout in the park – rugby returns 0

Posted on September 29, 2020 by Ken

Coming to Loftus Versfeld is normally a daunting experience for Stormers teams, but captain Siya Kolisi said the build-up to their SuperFan Saturday match in Pretoria was more like a throwabout in the park. Until the actual rugby started, of course.

Rugby returned in South Africa after six months, with the Stormers beating the Lions and the Bulls thumping the Sharks behind closed doors at Loftus Versfeld. No spectators meant little atmosphere, but the players made up for it, not only through their obvious enthusiasm to be back playing again, but also in surprisingly good skill levels after all that time without contact.

The Bulls were especially impressive, running in seven tries in a dazzling 49-28 win over the Sharks, while the Stormers’ powerful first-choice pack set up a 34-21 win over the Lions, whose young second-stringers actually pulled the three-time Super Rugby finalists back into contention.

“I actually told the guys during the warm-up before the game started that it doesn’t feel like we are at Loftus, but it rather felt like just another training exercise until the actual match started. Previously playing at Loftus for the Stormers there was always interaction and chats with the fans, which added to the atmosphere, but this time there was no real banter there.

“Even sitting on the bench one could feel there is no crowd noise and it showed us we should never take anything for granted. It showed us once again how special our supporters are and how much we miss them, but it was also good to start playing again after being out of the game for six months, which wasn’t easy,” Kolisi, who finished clinically for a try while standing on the wing, said.

Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen said the lack of spectators meant he had to generate his own ardour, but the Springbok eighthman was soon back in business smashing opposition ball-carriers away from the gain-line.

“We wanted to just focus on what we have to do, but it was certainly a different feeling walking out on to Loftus and not hearing any noise. You would have heard a penny drop if someone had actually been there to drop one. The atmosphere is what charges you up, it gives you more energy, so it is so much nicer to play with a crowd.

“The one thing is you can actually hear the coaches shouting from the box so you know exactly where to go and what to do … ”, a smiling Vermeulen said.

Before both games, SA Rugby broadcast a statement recommitting themselves to their Rugby Against Discrimination And Racism campaign they launched last July in collaboration with the South African Human Rights Commission, stating they are “committed to an environment where all are welcome, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender.”

The Sharks took to the field before the start of their game wearing T-Shirts that said “We say not to racism” and some Lions players took a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter before their match.

Many of the players who locked horns at the weekend will now be team-mates this coming weekend as two Springbok ‘trials’ teams, Green and Gold, will clash in a farewell game for the famous old Newlands stadium in Cape Town.

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    Philemon 1:7 – “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

    “Every disciple of Jesus has a capacity for love. The most effective way to serve the Master is to share his love with others. Love can comfort, save the lost, and offer hope to those who need it. It can break down barriers, build bridges, establish relationships and heal wounds.” – A Shelter From The Storm, Solly Ozrovech

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