Farewell to Newlands, the grand old lady of SA sporting cathedrals

Our sports writers share their favourite memories of SA's oldest stadium

26 June 2020 - 14:49 By TimesLIVE
The Western Province Football Rugby Union will move out of Newlands to Cape Town Stadium.
The Western Province Football Rugby Union will move out of Newlands to Cape Town Stadium.
Image: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

This year marks a final chapter in the history of Newlands, SA's oldest stadium: the Stormers and Western Province Rugby are moving to Cape Town Stadium next year, and on Saturday July 4 these teams will meet at the stadium to say goodbye.

“Ten years I’ve been here. I get goosebumps thinking about it,” Siya Kolisi told the Sunday Times in March this year, sitting on a wooden bench in the changing rooms below the stadium.

“It’s become my home,” said the loose forward who led the Springboks to victory at the Rugby World Cup last year and who also captains the Stormers. “I love playing here. You feel the atmosphere. You are so close to people they can almost touch you — that is very special.”

On July 4, the Stormers and WP players will light braai fires on the field to celebrate their Newlands memories. TimesLIVE will broadcast a live stream from the stadium with Bryan Habana, Elma Smit and Siv Ngesi.

We also asked four of our best sports writers to share their fondest memories of Newlands.

Mninawa Ntloko, digital sports editor

“My cousin was quite pleased with himself as he watched the myriad expressions that crossed my face when I saw Newlands for the first time years ago. The Cape Town-born relative with the cool swag couldn't help himself when a teenage student from the rolling hills of Tsomo, Eastern Cape, visited his city for the first time and he simply had to show off.

“I was enchanted as I stood in front of the majestic stadium, acutely aware of the howling sound of the wind as it licked its way around this Cape Town landmark. I would return as a sports journalist years later, but that maiden memory of the grand old lady of SA sport will last long after the final brick has been reduced to rubble next year.”

Liam del Carme, senior sport journalist

“When you pass through the gates of the grand old lady of SA sporting cathedrals, you can’t but be absorbed by a sense of occasion.

“I felt that Newlands tingle for the first time in 1992 just before the Springboks’ Test against Australia. The Boks emerged from isolation a week before against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, but now they were facing the team that had won the World Cup a year earlier.

“When Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones emerged from the tunnel with stately poise, the Test-starved patrons couldn’t care less about the cold, wet and blustery weather. It was August, after all.

I was enchanted as I stood in front of the majestic stadium, acutely aware of the howling sound of the wind as it licked its way around this Cape Town landmark

“The conditions certainly weren’t going to contribute to a spectacle. In the curtain-raiser, even the prodigious talents of Herschelle Gibbs were shackled as the SA Schools team got stuck in the mud.

“The Boks treaded water from the start and were no match for the cool, calculated Australians. Even the unflappable Naas Botha struggled to keep his footing. He suffered the indignity of muddying his pristine white shorts when, in the act of kicking for goal, he slipped onto his back side.

“Though he was leading the Springboks, the crowd turned on the Bulls captain by chanting 'Theo, Theo, Theo' when another penalty opportunity presented itself later in the game. They wanted the goal-kicking duties to be transferred to fullback Theo van Rensburg, but he too was off the mark.

“It mattered little as the Boks were on their way to a humbling 26-3 defeat and, with it, a serious reality check.”

Marc Strydom, senior sports journalist

“I watched two big football games at Newlands. In the early 2000s — somewhere between 2002 and 2004 — I watched a big cup semifinal between Ajax Cape Town and Kaizer Chiefs at Newlands.

“I was excited to see the historic ground, and not disappointed by the 1950s feel and atmosphere it seemed to retain, despite the modernisation of the stands. And to see it packed with mostly Chiefs supporters was an experience, too. It dispelled the myth that football was not big in Cape Town.

“The next game was Bafana Bafana's epic 3-0 destruction at the hands of a Chris Katongo hat-trick-inspired Zambia in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in 2007 under Carlos Alberto Parreira. It was a sad day for Bafana, but what a display of a striker's mastery to witness from the then-corporal in the Zambian army, who was promptly promoted to sergeant in the wake of it.”

Mahlatse Mphahlele, senior sports journalist

“The highlight of my time visiting Newlands Stadium over the years was in September 2007 when SA hosted Zambia during a 2008 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier where Chipolopolo thrashed Bafana Bafana 3-1.

“Despite the deflating loss, with a Christopher Katongo hat-trick within 21 minutes and a consolation by Benni McCarthy, Bafana Bafana still qualified for the tournament in Ghana as one of the best-third finishers.”