Astounding news today that the Western Province Rugby Union (WPRU) have blocked the much anticipated “exhibition” Heineken Cup game between Saracens and Biarritz from being played at the Cape Town Stadium, stating:
The WPRFU Executive Committee decided that the home of rugby, Newlands, would stage this historic match. According to the South African Rugby Union Constitution the final decision regarding the match venue lies in the hands of the host union.
This news was greeted by a hearty rattle of walking sticks and zimmer frames.
The thing is though, Saracens – who made the official approach to have the match played in Cape Town – don’t want to play at Newlands. They want to play at the Cape Town Stadium, hence their official approach to have the game played at… er… the Cape Town Stadium.
This could be seen as a not-so-subtle hint that WPRU has no intention of moving to the new stadium. A not-so-subtle hint which mirrors the no-so-subtle hint of Newlands only being awarded the South Africa v Argentina test next year, which all the “big” tests (Australia, New Zealand, England) went to 2010 World Cup venues.
The Committee unanimously agreed that Newlands is currently the home of rugby in the Western Province, and will be treated as such for the foreseeable future. Newlands is one of the oldest rugby stadia in the world, with excellent facilities and currently boasts some of the highest attendance levels in world rugby.
Excellent facilities including decaying concrete, poor lighting, no parking and so on. And those attendance levels? Sure, they’re great – but how many of those fans wouldn’t travel 10km up the road for a better experience at a better stadium?
It’s a poke in the eye for the City of Cape Town. A reminder of who runs rugby in the Cape. A sign of what’s to come if the City thinks it’s going to “force” WPRU away from Newlands. It’s a watershed moment and instead of embracing common sense and the wishes of so many people in Cape Town, WPRU are obstinately stuck in the past, sitting blinkered in their own little world.
Whether the game will now even go ahead at all is yet to be seen. If not, that would mean a loss of revenue for many stakeholders – including WPRU.
How long before they learn their lesson?