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Official Review by Rob Cowie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Newlands is situated in the leafy Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa and is the third oldest stadium in world rugby. The first official matches were played there on Saturday 31 May 1890 when Villager and Stellenbosch met in extremely muddy conditions. The historic ground has a capacity of 48,000 and, with the tall stands in close proximity to the playing field, it is world-renowned for its electric and intimidating atmosphere.
It is the home of the Western Province Rugby Union (WPRU) and headquarters of the DHL Western Province and DHL Stormers rugby teams. The teams train at the High Performance Centre in Cape Town's northern suburbs during the week, but play all their home games at Newlands. The South African Rugby Union (SARU) is based at the adjoining Sports Science Institute.
The playing field is unique in the Southern Hemisphere, in that it consists of 11km of polypropylene fibres stitched between the grass of the playing surface.
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The standard boerewors (sausage) rolls are available outside the stadium - sold by locals from their barbeques. Numerous bars outside the stadium offer beers and stronger local drinks such as brandy and cola.
Inside Newlands, there are numerous beer stands which are generally overcrowded, especially during the half-time break. Soft drinks and traditional snacks such as biltong (cured meat similar to jerky) can be bought from the wandering vendors without leaving your seat. If you're lucky enough to be invited to watch from a private suite, you will usually be treated to an unlimited selection of drinks and snacks.
Newlands has few rivals internationally when it comes to atmosphere. The relatively intimate stadium places fans in close proximity to the playing field making for an exciting viewing experience. It is also somewhat intimidating for visiting teams to say the least. The atmosphere is at its most electric when Western Province take on their biggest national rivals, the Blue Bulls from Pretoria. International games don't come bigger than the world champion South African Springboks versus the world's number one ranked New Zealand All Blacks.
Because of the age of the stadium, the neighborhood has grown up around it. Quiet, leafy suburbs and historic pubs and restaurants abound. On match days many fans meet at pubs such as Forester's Arms for a few beers before strolling down to the stadium to catch the game. The journey is repeated in reverse after the game when a few drinks are consumed to celebrate victory, or soften the blow of defeat. Newlands Cricket Ground is also just a short walk down the road.
The fans of Western Province rugby are fiercely loyal and the attendance figures during the major tournaments of the rugby season are consistently high. Fans are now commonly known as "The Newlands Faithful". A typical chant heard at the ground would be "Proooooooooovince" in reference to the Western Province rugby team. Equally common when things aren't going well would be the cry of "Proooooooooooblems".
The Newlands Faithful do not readily tolerate failure by their team and have been known to boo them during particularly unsuccessful seasons. The stadium caters well to young students, who have cheap access and are seated next to the field of play.
There is plenty of parking in the surrounding suburbs, and most of the local schools open their gates to fans for parking on match day. The stadium is situated directly adjacent to the Newlands railway station for easy access by those who prefer to travel by train. Taxis and local buses are all available from the nearby Main Road which stretches all the way to Cape Town City Center.
Tickets are generally affordable during the local competitions (Currie Cup, Vodacom Cup), averaging about R50. Prices are slightly higher for tickets to Super Rugby competition games, usually costing around R100 depending on the seat location and the importance of the game. Tickets to international games featuring the Springboks are disproportionately expensive, and typically start from about R600 depending on the quality of the opposition. Still, it is an entertaining experience watching any game at Newlands as the stadium is usually full of rugby fanatics.
Attached to the rugby stadium is the South African Rugby Museum which contains many interesting and historic rugby artefacts. Next door is the state-of-the-art Sports Science Institute, home to many internationally recognised sports science experts, and headquarters of the South African national rugby team, The Springboks.
*Rob Cowie is the editor of Ou Grote Rugby
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