Witbank Spurs v Santos, Saturday 8th November 2014, 3.30pm

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I’d watched Witbank back in August in a home game played at Middleburg. For this National First Division game against Santos they were at their regular Puma Rugby Stadium home.

I went to Witbank last year, when some of us from work had lunch in a fairly ropey looking part of town. You brought your own meat and a couple of fellas cooked it for you on a six foot long grill. As I rarely carry raw meat around with me it was fortunate that there was a butcher’s shop right next door.

Not a microwave in sight.

Not a microwave in sight.

The place that we ate at wasn’t somewhere that I’d be comfortable visiting after dark. Most of the locals were fine with us but it was easy to see that once people got a few drinks inside them then it was likely to be a different story. Mind you, there’s plenty of pubs in Norton like that.

Friendlier than the Mucky Duck or Top House.

Friendlier to strangers than the Mucky Duck or Top House.

On this occasion I’d already had my lunch, albeit one consisting of a piece of birthday cake, and so Jen and I were able to head straight to the ground.

Where did those years go?

Where did all those years go?

It was all a little confusing as although Witbank play at the Rugby Stadium, there was an actual rugby match taking place next door at what I hope is known as the football ground.

As we are white it was assumed that we were headed for the oval ball game and the bloke on the gate tried to just wave us straight through. He was quite pleased when we told him that we were there for the football and as he sold us our ten rand tickets, thanked us for our support.

Sixty pence, for the South African equivalent of the Championship.

Sixty pence, for the South African equivalent of the Championship.

Puma Rugby Stadium is fairly run down and if it ever had a heyday then it was a long time ago. I know how that feels. We clambered up a grassy bank and took a couple of seats on the concrete terracing. Whilst we didn’t have a roof above, there was a wall directly behind us that we could lean against.

On the way in.

On the way in.

There were a couple of covered stands opposite, the smaller of the two being more like a cricket pavilion than something that you’d see at a football ground.

The covered stands.

The covered stands.

To our left was a strange looking stand. It was two tier, but without a roof. Whilst a handful of fans braved the upper level, most people sat in the seats directly in front of the executive boxes, the brief overhang from above providing some cover.

The uncovered stand.

The uncovered stand.

This was also the part of the ground where the noisier of the fans hung out. As usual there were plenty of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates shirts, plus the odd robe and a fair few vuvuzelas. One fella brought three of them in with him. I can understand one spare, maybe, but what sort of potential vuvuzela crisis could warrant bringing two spares?

Witbank hardcore.

Witbank hardcore.

There were probably around a hundred and fifty fans in the ground as the game kicked off and at ten rand a head I wondered whether there was actually any point in selling tickets. By the time they’ve been printed and the bloke on the gate has been paid there can’t have been much profit on the exercise.

We had the cameras at the game too, as it was live on ‘normal’ telly, you know, the ‘free-to-air’ one rather than the subscription channels. It’s possible then that there might have been a few hundred thousand people with nothing better to do than to watch second tier football tuned in to this match at home. I doubt many of the audience were expecting a thriller as Witbank hadn’t scored in their last five games, with four of them ending goalless.

Santos on the attack.

Santos on the attack.

For most of the first half it looked as if the run was going to continue. Witbank, in their Brighton strips, struggled against the two big lugs in the Santos defence. The home side eventually managed to break the deadlock just before the break, when one of their strikers beat the offside trap and hooked the ball home for his team‘s first goal in six games.

A big lug.

A big lug.

It wasn’t much different in the second half, although with both keepers looking like they’d rarely played in goal before, there was always the chance of something coming out of nothing.

As time went on the sky grew darker and with twenty minutes to go the thunder and lightning looked to be no more than a field or two away. By this point most people were huddled at the back of the stand. Others had decided to make a run for it and see if they could reach their cars before the rain started. We joined them.

Time to go.

Time to go.

We reached the car just as the rain came down and the ref led the on-field charge for the dressing room. Apparently lightning was the official reason for suspending play but I wouldn’t have wanted to be outside in that weather regardless. As we drove away the rain was bouncing back up off the road and was already forming large pools.

A quick check the next day confirmed that the teams did return, but neither managed a goal and Witbank held on for the win.

 

 

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