I have been a Western Province (WP) fan for 31 years now. It`s not like I was born in the Cape and therefore just supported the homeside, no I was born 1200km away. It`s not like I supported the team my Dad supported, no he wasn`t even a rugby fan. Nobody told me to support them or even gave me a heads up about them. I just found them and fell in love with them and it has been a love affair which has given me the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
I sat all by myself and watched my first rugby match on tv, I was 5 years old and had no idea about the rules, who was playing or anything else. I was just a little kid falling in love with a game and with a team. One team was wearing a light blue jersey and the other wore hooped, blue and white jerseys. They were called WP. I sat transfixed, mesmerised by this team in their hooped jerseys. I cannot tell you if WP won that match against their arch enemies the Blue Bulls (from Pretoria). What I do know is that I have never supported any other provincial side, even though I have lived in 3 different provinces.
WP was established in 1883 and won their first Currie Cup (the CC is the premier provincial competition in SA) in 1889. They have won the CC a record 32 times, their closest rivals having won in the region of 22 CC`s. The fact that the CC plays such a massive part in most south african lives is because it was all we had during the bad days of sanctions and apartheid. We had no international sport, only provincial rivalries to keep us going. The matches between WP and the Blue Bulls were our test matches. That`s why even today, the provincial rivalry is unprecedented. I won`t support a Blue Bulls player and will only do so grudgingly if they play for the Springboks, our national side and current world champions.
WP play their rugby out of Newlands, which is the oldest test venue in SA. It is the home of rugby in South Africa as far as I`m concerned. I went to Newlands for the first time in 2005. It was a test match between the Springboks and the All Blacks which the Boks won and in which Andre, my buddy, played a major part. I remember looking at Hayley when we sat down on the Railway Pavilion and saying to her that it felt like I was home. It was a dream come true to be there. I have gone to a lot of matches since that first visit and each time is still unbelievably special.
WP have always been known as the team that plays attractive, running rugby. It is our rugby, it is what we are known for and what the fans love. WP will forever be the flamboyant team to the dour nonsense rugby dished up by our northern rivals. It might not be winning rugby all the time but it is beautiful to watch. I suppose it`s also got a lot to do with the lack of hair I have now!
WP players are some of my favourite sportsmen. Bob Skinstad, Schalk Burger, Carel Du Plessis, Morne Du Plessis, Jean De Villiers, Tiaan Strauss, Chester Williams to name but a few. These guys are icons as far as I`m concerned.
We have been going through a bit of a slump during the last few years. We haven`t won the CC since 2001. It feels like forever. Since then the Blue Bulls have won it 4 times. It has been terrible.
But, it seems like we are showing a revival. We are building a brilliant squad and have a pretty good coach. Things are looking up.
I found this on the old desktop computer the other day. I saved it about 9 years ago and it still sends cold shivers down my spine. Like it says, WP it`s in your blood....
It was a perfect day.
There was rain, wind and a penalty right in front of the posts.
I had rushed to the grounds, not because of the weather, but because of the excitement that awaited me. I visited Newlands as often as the rain did, and like the rain I believed that I could influence a match.
Clenched fists could help a conversion, evil thoughts could make an opponent stumble, my lucky underwear made Corne tackle that much harder. The faithful didn't come here to watch, we came to take part.
It seemed to rain every time I visited Newlands, but I only seemed to get wet when we'd lost. Victory kept me warm, a try that started on our 22 kept me dry.
That's what Province is all about: running out of danger, all fifteen players handling the ball. Total rugby means wings see the ball as often as the scrumhalf, the fullback joins the line at pace, and 120kg props find themselves rushing (in a manner of speaking) down the touchline.
But today had started badly. We had lost the toss. I hate when that happens. Province is supposed to win everything. When I was at school Cape Town was where you found the mountain, the beaches, and the Currie Cup. It belonged here. Just 30 seconds ago, things seemed hopeless: behind by two, pinned in our half, unable to get our hands on the ball.
But a midfield tackle, a grubber kick and some fine handling had forced our opponents to concede the penalty.
The kick was about to be witnessed by 50 000 pairs of eyes, but for anyone listening, not a thing could be heard.
Every player on the field was still. The only movement was that of the ball boy bringing on the kicking tee. It was a time for courage. And courage was bred through courage. We got courage from the players; they got it from the blue and white. It was the courage of generations of Province players filtering through. Chris Rossouw placed the ball on the tee. And went through his familiar routine. We went through our routines too. Men, who hadn't been to church for years, prayed. Couples who had argued about parking now held hands desperately.
And all the while the northwester howled.
I hadn't held a man before. But with that successful kick (of course it was, you weren't expecting anything else from Province, were you?) I found myself hugging the closest streeptrui I could find.
I was beyond joy, but the guy next to me was actually crying. He must have noticed my expression because he shouted to me (the cheering hadn't died down yet): "That's my son, that's my son." I was deeply impressed. "Chris is your son," I said. It had been a straightforward kick, but in treacherous conditions. "Not Chris," the man replied, "my boy's the one who brought on the kicking tee."
Western Province. It's in your blood.