Valke v Boland Cavaliers, Saturday 5th July 2014, 2.30pm


Last Saturday tea-time I needed to be at the airport to pick up Jen as she returned from the trip that she’d taken to the US whilst I was in Brazil. Quite handily I’d noticed that there was a Currie Cup rugby game going on in nearby Kempton Park and since I was going to be over that way anyway, I thought I’d go along.

Whilst I had the address of the Barnard Stadium, my sat nav had never heard of it and neither had the blue dot on my phone. Fortunately I spotted a grandstand as I was driving around and when I got up close I was relieved to see I was at the right place.

It was ten rand to park my car in a nearby field and then thirty rand for a ticket.

The ticket office

The ticket office

My ticket was number 486, but it didn’t look as if there were anything like that number of people inside the ground. I’d estimate that there were around two hundred spectators which I thought wasn’t too bad considering that it was absolutely bloody freezing.

I’ve been getting a bit complacent with the winter weather here. Whilst it’s generally below freezing as I drive to work in the dark in the early morning, by mid-day the temperatures are usually up around 20C. In fact, I’d only worn a coat on this occasion so that I’d have a pocket to put a camera in. It’s as well that I did, or it would have been a short visit.

I'm getting geeky about tickets these days.

I’m getting geeky about tickets these days.

The big grandstand that I’d spotted from a distance was supplemented by uncovered terracing to either side of it. There was also terracing around the other three sides of the stadium, although very few people were watching the game from those areas. I’d missed the kick-off due to my problems in finding the stadium and Valke were already 7-3 down.

The view from low down.

The view from low down.

I recognised the name of the visiting team, Boland Cavaliers, and remembered that I’d seen them get hammered at Swellendam in March in the Community Cup. I’ve not really grasped the eligibility requirements to enter the various competitions but I’m confident that the Currie Cup is a higher standard than the Community Cup, at least in the latter stages.

I’d also liken the Currie Cup to the English FA Cup in that it has a great history to it but now suffers from the priority given to Super Rugby in the same way that winning the FA Cup ranks somewhere below qualifying for the Champions League or even avoiding Premier league relegation for some teams. However, it does give a chance to sides like Valke and Boland to qualify for a game against the big boys later in the season.

The view from higher up.

The view from higher up.

The pitch didn’t look ideal for rugby, with very short dried out grass that was so lightly coloured that the lines were marked in red. I’ve seen greener cricket wickets. Maybe the groundsman was worried that the dry pitch would catch fire if the grass was kept any longer.

Roadside fires are commonplace this time of year. A stray cigarette or a discarded bottle will lead to whole fields burning down to stubble. I quite enjoy driving past these fires and will usually wind a window down to better appreciate the heat and smell.

When I was a kid, the local vicar would often dump and burn wreaths on a big pile of hay at the back of the vicarage. I’ve no idea if the hay was his, but it would smoulder away for ages. If ever we saw this we’d always try to stamp it out. No idea why, but we did. Often to the point where the plastic soles of our shoes would melt. These days though, I’ve usually got grown-up stuff to do and so I have to leave the fields to burn.

The main stand.

The main stand.

In the second half I left the main stand and had a walk around the rest of the ground. The terracing to the other three sides of the pitch had a strange overhead structure. It was as if someone had decided to put up some shelter but then lost interest before the roof went on. It looked ideal for growing vines, which would at least provide some shade at certain times of year. Maybe some wine too.

Boland on the attack.

Boland on the attack.

Boland continued to add to their lead throughout the second half until a last minute consolation try for the home side cut the final deficit to 35-20, giving the impression that the game had been that little bit closer than it really was.



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