FROM THE STANDS
Tuks Stadium — You can spend your entire life in Johannesburg and still not understand the dorpie just up the road.
Pretoria’s topography is distinct. The hustle and bustle of Jozi is absent. Life is different.
The contrast in culture is never more evident than on game day. By game day we mean normal, casual varsity rugby.
Except it’s not that casual. That much is apparent as soon you drive past what used to be Hatfield Square. Students cram into local hangouts, decked in their white Tuks shirts with an orange flash through the middle. Cars line either side of the final avenue as the bulging stream continues to descend on the stadium.
Soon after kick-off it’s filled to capacity. Despondent late-comers meander outside the gate hoping extra tickets will miraculously become available. I was not too proud to have to plead media status to gain entry. We’re used to our empty stadiums further south down the N1 — bar the odd big match, pre-booking tickets is generally not a concern.
That mentality is nothing short of ignorance. Everyone here wants to see the champions Maties come to town. Tuks has played multiple finals against their Stellenbosch rivals and the fixture is one that’s looked forward to every February. Two rugby-loving “nations” clashing for bragging rights.
What follows is more spectacle than grudge match. Through the lens of a Jo’burger, it approaches the bizarre. Rugby at the University of Johannesburg, though fervent, is not on this level. The less said about what goes on at Wits the better.
The cliques littered among the thousands present are one of the first things that catch the eye. Residences — such as Boekenhout and Taaibos — have their names emblazoned on the backs of shirts. Student representative council members walk around in their striped blazers. Faculty representatives have similar but more prep-boy suits.
Others in the crowd are happy to wear the rugby replicas, the odd football jersey or orange “Tuks of niks” Ts. Almost everyone has something to mark their allegiance. Something meant to affirm their identity at a glance; to demonstrate they are part of the #StripeGeneration.
Their side pays off the faith showed in them in the first half. Maties are largely kept in their own half and strangled of opportunities. The Tuks dominance only intensifies the jovial atmosphere. Conversely, when the home side begin to drop at the restart, so does the atmosphere.
A sombre tone settles over proceedings as the visitors force their way into the lead. At this point many are more concerned about their social circles anyway, but those who remain focused are growing increasingly frustrated with the number of misplaced, and simply stupid, passes.
From the embankment to the south, only two people, presumably Stellenbosch expats, are revelling in this stuttered game flow. They’re clad in tiny brown sunhats, light-blue checked shirts and khaki shorts. Grown tweelings from afar.
Tuks still can’t push through. Commentators blare through the system pretty much throughout the whole affair. Not much about the game but other nonsense such as announcing birthdays or “hey ladies, this bachelor is only 19!”
A crucial missed penalty almost snuffs out the hope that remains.
The tweelings drink and proudly stand and shout. They become particularly raucous when Summer of 69 begins to play.
Ultimately, no one looked too bothered when the last 10 minutes inevitably played out to a home loss — at least not as the locals departed for Aandklas, the infamous drinking hole in Hatfield.
As for this Jo’burger, it’s a long trip home with plenty of time to think about what has just transpired.