The Chiefs are about to step into a cauldron lined by what has to be the most passionate supporters in world rugby.
If you took a sky shot of Pretoria you’d be forgiven for thinking that an army of smurfs had invaded the capital. Yesterday I wrote Bulls blue was everywhere. Today, well, it’s indescribable.
The Bulls replica shirts sell for around R600 a pop. That didn’t seem to deter their disciples. Eighty percent of the men and women I’ve seen in and around Loftus have one. If they don’t, they’ve got a Bulls golf shirt, a t-shirt, a tank top, a fleece sweater. Failing that, they are bare-chested and painted blue.
To complete the ensemble, there are Bulls caps or beanies, and if you weigh in excess of 120kg, have a unkempt beard and male pattern baldness – a construction-style Bulls helmet with fake (I think) horns attached to the top.
Those who haven’t yet made their way to the stadium are in for trouble. The roads leading into the city are a nightmare and don’t even dream of getting close to the stadium in your vehicle. You gotta park and march buddy, but the blue-lined streets will make the journey a pleasurable one.
The locals started the braais early and are enjoying that black magic in a glass, while singing along to the boeremusiek blaring from their bakkies’ sound system. ‘De la Rey’ is a favourite, but I’ve heard a variety of catchy tunes that are sure to be filling the dancefloors should the Bulls win today.
The beer tents on Loftus’ outer fields are choka, as is Trademarx, a restaurant about 150m from the stadium. On my way in I saw a number of men who would have been looking forward to watching this match, but instead will spend the next couple of hours sprawled in the back of their bakkies, or on the back seat of their cars, having been rendered temporarily paralysed as a result of dabbling too enthusiastically in the aforementioned black magic.
The weather is conducive to pre-match revelry, as it is to running rugby, with the Pretoria sun baking down. There is a slight breeze, but nothing that should give either side an advantage. Chiefs coach Ian Foster was adamant that his side would not stray from the high risk, high reward philosophy. The conditions will certainly aid in his side’s ability to test the Bulls in the wide channels.
Imagine my surprise when I ran into former Springbok and Bulls flanker Wikus van Heerden, who is down from England to support his former team-mates.
The Saracens man knows all about the nerves the boys must be feeling now, having played in the winning side of 2007, but was unequivocal in his belief that the hosts would make it two titles in three years this evening.
‘The Chiefs are not going to be pushovers,’ Van Heerden told keo.co.za. ‘They are a quality outfit, but the Bulls showed how good they are by finishing top of the log, and seeing off the Crusaders fairly easily last week.
‘I’ve spoken to some of the boys and they’re fired up, but all have cool minds. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a classic battle.’
I have to concur. A classic awaits and you get the sense that if the Bulls get on top, the 55 000 nutters in the stands will have a decisive factor in ensuring the Chiefs’ spirit is brutally crushed.
By Ryan Vrede, at Loftus.