Bulls

Loftus crowd unbelieva-Bull

on

Super Rugby Quick Links : Home | News | Fixtures | Super Rugby Betting | Standings |

There may be bigger and more famous stadiums in world rugby, but there are not likely to be more intimidating places than Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Serving as the home ground to the Bulls since the 1920s, it is the venue for Saturday’s Super 14 semi-final against the Crusaders.

The 50,000 seater stadium, also used by the or Blue Bulls (or Northern Transvaal as they used to be called for domestic competitions), was first known as the Eastern Sports Ground and in the 1930s it was named after Mr Loftus Versfeld, said to be the founder of organised sport in Pretoria.

And the Crusaders, while they’ve played there on a number of occasions in the past and should know what it’s all about, can expect a hostile reception from the 50 000 fans who’ve secured their tickets to the big game.

The Bulls are hosting a Super 14 semi-final for the first time after ending in second place on the log after the league fixtures. The other semi-final will be in Durban where the hosts, the Sharks take on the Blues.

While the Sharks claim to have the most number of supporters across South Africa, the most vocal and visible are certainly those fans of the Bulls. And recently, the Bulls brand was deemed the most popular and successful in South African sport, according to a marketing survey.

Any player who’s run out at the Bull-kraal wearing any other jersey except the blue of the home team will tell you it’s not a nice experience.

The fans, almost every one of them in replica Bulls jerseys, pack the stands every time their team plays at home. According to team media manager Ian Schwartz, there are on average 40 000 fans for every home game.

“They truly are a big ally for the team. Where in the world do you see 45 000 supporters coming in to watch the sixth-placed team take on the team in 14th position? Only at Loftus.”

The Bulls were in sixth place before they kicked off against the Reds last Saturday.

“We’re grateful to our fans and all the supporters across the country and the players feel that support as well. Heyneke Meyer [the Bulls coach] often uses the support base to motivate the players,” added Schwartz.

The sea of blue supporters, many of them with faces painted blue and bull horns attached to their head-gear, know every minute detail about every player and they also know their rugby back to front.

The atmosphere in the stands is as charged as anything one sees in the biggest football stadiums around the world.

They sing along to the hit songs that are blasted from the giant speakers in the stadium, making sure any outsiders are made to feel very unwelcome.

The late, but legendary South African singer G’ Korsten’s hit-song “Liefling”, which translated from Afrikaans to English means “Darling” or “Sweetheart”, is played every time Bulls fly-half Derick Hougaard succeeds with a shot at goal.

Hougaard, whom many Bulls fans believe is the only worthy number 10 for the Springbok team, but is seemingly always overlooked, has in recent seasons become THE Darling of Loftus.

A number of years ago another popular South African singer, Steve Hofmeyr, was commissioned to write a theme song for the Bulls – the result was “Die Blou Bul” (The Blue Bull).

It is one of the most downloaded songs in the Afrikaans community. Then of course there are those gorgeous Bulls Babes – the cheerleaders of the team – who with their skimpy, yet classy cowgirl outfits, keep the fans entertained before the kick-off and during the game.

They’re a multi-racial group of dancers who have a massive following across the country, proof of the changing face of rugby in Pretoria, which was once a predominantly white, conservative community.

There are other elements which make Loftus Versfeld the most memorable place to play and watch rugby in South Africa. The fans gather from early in the morning on match-day, park their cars in any available space and turn the streets around the stadium into a mini carnival.

The atmosphere is electric and the beers flow. Just outside the stadium is the famous pub, the Sin Bin, which draws thousands of fans throughout the day.

And let’s not forget the Bulls’ mascot – “Bulletjie”, which translated to English means “Little Bull.”

On match-day, Pretoria comes to a standstill. Everything revolves around the Bulls and their home ground Loftus Versfeld.

As captain Victor Matfield said after Saturday’s victory over the Reds: “With the kind of support we’ve got behind us, it’s very difficult to lose at Loftus.”

AFP

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.