On Friday, March 15, I joined about a dozen fellow students who are in Arcadia’s University of Cape Town program to watch a rugby match between the Stormers (Cape Town’s team) and the Jaguares (a team from Argentina).
After a beautiful walk along a small river, we arrived at Newlands Rugby Stadium in Cape Town’s Claremont neighborhood. Immediately, the festivities began. Street food - predominantly barbecued meats - was sold on the sidewalks and a colorful parade marched down the street.The performers were dressed in bright blue, red, and white and played trumpets, reminding me slightly of the college football atmosphere in the United States, but with a strong South African twist.
The energetic music of the band got my friends and I excited as we entered the stadium, which has a capacity of over 50,000 people and was about a quarter-full. Although the crowd in attendance was predominantly white - rugby has been historically associated with South Africa’s white community - I was surprised to see that about a quarter of the audience was made up of people of color. Although this is still disproportionate to Cape Town’s population overall, which is majority-black, it demonstrates that despite historical, racial, and economic barriers, rugby is beginning to receive support from a more diverse array of South Africans.
After grabbing some boerewors - the Afrikaans word for bratwurst - with onions and tomato sauce, my friends and I sat down to watch the game. The atmosphere was extremely energetic, with the crowd intensely focused on the game and passionate for the Stormers to win. That said, they showed more respect for the other team than most American audiences, even cheering as the Jaguares ran onto the field. One of the screens even read, “welcome to our visiting team, the Jaguars” at one point, which would have never happened at a sporting event in the U.S.
At the end of the game, the Stormers absolutely obliterated the Jaguares, winning handily by a score of 35-8. Although I came in with very minimal knowledge of rugby, by the end my friends and I felt like we could follow the game pretty well. Although it was 80 minutes long, we were constantly engaged with the game the entire time.
The rugby game was just another experience that combined learning about the culture of a different country and enjoying time with friends - a microcosm of the whole trip.
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