Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the greatest show on earth…today.
The atmosphere in and around the Orlando Stadium, Soweto, is six trillion times better than it was last week – and last week was off the chain. One Cape writer summed it up superbly when he said: ‘The last time I experienced an atmosphere as good as this was in the mid-90s, but then everybody was on ecstasy.’
That atmosphere has been aided immeasurably by the fact that supporters have heeded calls to arrive earlier. At about an hour before kick-off there were already thousands in their seats, while the others cavorted and in the beer tents, klapping Castles to lubricate their throats and loosen their tongues.
Others are in pubs and shebeens around the ground, and 186 Main Road, Orlando East, appears to have been rented out by a party of about 20 Bulls fans, for a tjop-n-dop party. The scene stimulated a thought: I wonder if the same welcome will be extended by the Pretoria locals the next time Chiefs play Pirates at Loftus? Eish.
Others ventured down the road less travelled. Actually there isn’t a road where they went. About 10 Bully Boys decided that the shebeens aren’t an authentic enough Soweto experience for them, and opted to have a couple of drinks with the residents of a nearby informal settlement. They looked like they’ve been at it for a while, and how they will traverse the train tracks, uneven ground and long, unkempt grass that marks their route to the stadium, remains to be seen.
The droning blare of the Vuvuzela is the soundtrack of the final, although they quietened down slightly when Kurt Darren and Steve Hofmeyer (who else) started performing, but started up again when President Jacob Zuma delivered a speech. You make your own conclusions.
There are thousands of the eardrum-busting buggers in and around the ground, all being ‘played’ with great gusto by their owners. They’re a curse for those who started their celebrations early last night, as the pain of pounding headaches are only amplified by the sound. Then there’s the mini Vuvuzela, a devilish piece of work that, when blown, mimics the sound of a crying baby. It is the single most annoying invention in history.
The Stormers came out an hour and half before kick-off to be greeted by handful of their supporters, who made the journey from Cape Town in the hope that their charges deny the defending champs successive titles. If the pensive looks on some of the Stormers’ players’ faces as they took in the sights and sounds of the stadium is indicative of their mental state, it’s likely those faithful few will go home disappointed. Maybe they’ll settle before kick-off, and they certainly are looking sharp in their warm-up drills, but the roar that the Bulls elicited when they took the field for their pre-match preparation would have left the visitors in no doubt that they are in Bulls country.
Conditions are perfect at present, chilly but pleasant, with no hint of wind. All the signs point towards an epic. Let the Soweto showdown begin.
By Ryan Vrede, at Orlando Stadium