PG YEAR 1: 2009 – The Year of the Rugby

There has been a bit of a revival in the fortunes of the Springboks this year – the proof will be in the pudding, of course, as we head into the Australisian leg of the Tri-Nations, but so far so good. 2009 was a similiar sort of year – Snorre was in his second year in charge, his first year was less than stellar but the next year he dominated by winning both the Tri-Nations and the Lions Tour. That year, Province narrowly lost a home semi-final in the Currie Cup to the Bulls, who were also Super Rugby champions that year.

I remember it fondly, as I watched a number of Currie Cup, Super Rugby and Springbok games that year – PROFESSIONALLY.

Now you might ask, how does one become a professional rugby watcher? Well, let me break it down for you.

I started doing my marketing to the youth travel sector in December of 2008… it was rough going, as people were generally suspicious of a newcomer, even one as obviously charming and trustworthy as myself. I realized that for wine tours, peninsula tours, even city tours everyone already had a trusted supplier and it was tough to break in. So I had to come up with a new plan.

Concurrently, I was once again single on Valentines Day, and as it happened there was a Stormers Sharks game at Newlands -and hey presto. I arranged an event including boerewors on a gas braai, beers and brandewyn for about 30 of my closest friends. What a party. We lost the game, but it occurred to me that was incidental to the fun we had. I had rediscovered my childhood favourite spot at the Groote Schuur primary school rugby fields, where fans from all ages, creeds and colours gathered to braai, talk and have fun.

So the next week the Stormers played the Reds on a Friday night. I bought a few tickets and said maybe I could market this as an event. “You are not a thought leader, and it is a Friday night – people don’t go to rugby on a Friday night,” hissed my sister, betting me I could not sell the tickets. I took up the challenge, which ended in a draw. I did sell half the tickets, but the other half I gave away to industry colleagues and potential agents. A fun time was had regardless, and we were on our way.

Over the following two months I would attend a couple more games in the same fashion – and found a rich vein of support from backpackers in Long Street, Dutch volunteers and American students. We watched rugby, we listened to Kurt Darren, we had a blast.

Around this time, the British and Irish Lions cruised into town. This 12 match tour came with about 20,000 touring supporters, and all hell broke loose. I looked after the KUDUS, and they were in my charge for more than 3.5 weeks. Over the course of that time we traveled up and down the country, watched 9 games of rugby in four different stadiums including three tests, and built memories and friendships to last a lifetime. Among the highlights were meeting Danie Gerber at the Port Elizabeth police rugby club, winning the series at Loftus and misadventures with lost luggage. What a great group, and I look forward to seeing them again in four years!

After the euphoric Lions Tour and some liver recovery time, it was back to the business of hosting rugby braais. It was the turn of the Currie Cup, and the Western Province did not disappoint – making it all the way to the semi-final where a moment of madness from that Fijian winger cost us our spot in the final. As was often the theme of those years, it was the Bulls that did us in. They were a champion team and went on to add the Currie Cup to the Super Rugby trophy.

It was a brilliant time for me. We watched another six games of Currie Cup rugby at Newlands including the semis, I hosted some brilliant people and had a lot of fun in the process.

This year, there were not braais at Newlands. The authorities shut down the environment to beers and braais, so what was a glorious time in the early days is now officially over. I still go to the games, I still host guests (at my house these days) but I no longer troll Long Street for takers or entertain mates at the games. The Bulls are absolutely terrible, the Stormers/Province still do ok without being amazing, and the Springboks… well, they were glorious in 2009, lets see what 2017 brings.

In the meantime,  I will be celebrating national braai day with some friends, a few dogs and the missus. Probably watching the rugger on telly. Braai day in a different guise, but still one of our best traditions!

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