Images By: Al Nicoll
On Saturday 23rd April 2016, we arrived. By us I mean, famed photographer and colleague Al Nicoll, visiting International student and researcher Chris Egan and I. We were in the midst of the Umlazi Township in Durban, South Africa about to watch The Cell C Sharks take on Namibia in the Township Tour series bought to you by Durban Tourism and the Field of Dreams Foundation (a sharks program).
Arriving slightly ahead of schedule we sat outside admiring the beautiful day, blue skies, warm sun and a cool breeze signalling the last few days of autumn and the beginning of the South African Winter. We had traveled to the venue with the Cell C Sharks and then waited for the arrival of the Namibian team. Arriving moments later as they did, the first words out my mouth were……damm son! What are they feeding you up there? These boys were men! Descending from their bus like giants I stepped aside while Al managed to get a few images of the team.
After which Chris and I were escorted up to the VIP Hospitality Suite with Durban Tourism while Al setup camp on the field getting ready for the game. No matter how many times I work with Al Nicoll I will never get over just how professional he is. Arriving with not one but at least three camera bodies, several lenses and enough lens cloths to stitch a quilt together. It amazes me but also makes me giggle.
As we choose our seats and settled in, I looked around the field. The “township” aspect and goal of this series really rang true. To my far left were several kids running up and down the fences, waving and shouting “Sharks, Sharks, Sharks”, they had so much real joy and excitement emitting from their faces. How many of them have ever seen a live rugby match I don’t know and how many of them have had the opportunity to watch the Sharks play I couldn’t tell you. I can tell you that these kids were about to have way more fun than anyone else if it was the last thing they did and that made my heart smile. It is exactly why the Sharks and Durban Tourism have partnered together, to bring something to someone that may not have the chance to see it any other way.
To my far right there was this block of blue. It took me awhile to figure out that it was an entire school group from the local township. The children I assume were from one of the local high schools as they were in their teens. None the less they were busting a move or two as the pre-game music started and giggling to each other like….well like school kids.
I must admit I was thoroughly impressed with the discipline and manners each and every single one of them had. They stuck together at all times, they cheered together, they gasped together and they sung several beautiful songs while the sharks were playing. At one point they even had the entire stadium clapping and singing along. Chris found this rather entertaining.
Eventually it begun! Both teams came running out onto the pitch, the boys from Namibia first and then the Cell C Sharks along with local mascot Sharkie! Sharkie had a good time let me tell you, if he wasn’t singing with the school kids, he was running along the outside of the pitch with the children from the local community. It was beautiful and I give him huge thumbs up for keeping the crowd on their feet and also note to self *Sign gym membership to be as fit as Sharkie*.
Just before the game started we begun by congratulating The Sharks for winning their match against The Highlanders abroad and then the game begun. And what a match it was.
I must admit we spent the first half defending our side rather than making gains into the other team’s space but we did score the first try and by score the first try I mean we created history with an incredibly amazing try by Marius Louw . You know when you see a car do a handbrake turn on an off road track? Sand everywhere, grass spun up? Cheers from the crowd? That was basically how Marius scored the first try! Great capture from Al Nicoll.
After which he proceeded to do a hat trick! The thing that interested me about the game was how big the Namibia team were but how much stronger we seemed to be on the field? While they took us in height and most likely weight we had no problem creating our own brick walls. Our guys can certainly take what they’re given. My man of the match has to go to Neil Maritz in No.14 he is an amazing player! Once he has the ball he’s got the speed of Bryan Habana and the power of Beast! I quite enjoy watching him play during the matches as I know there will always be something interesting happening once he has the ball.
Just before the half time siren went off, The Sharks did something unbelievable between the amazing play of three of our players, we covered more than half of the field and scored a try! There some serious lightning moves, and GREAT handwork! In fact the handwork was next to brilliant! Well done boys!
At half time we were treated to an amazing layout of food, catered to both the Halaal and Vegetarian guests. This is something that I always find really vital to hosting a good event. As an ex event manager myself I know that you can make people really appreciate the experience when they feel like they’re welcome and catering is one aspect that not many brands nor companies think of.
Once half time begun again, everyone was on their seats ready and waiting to see if the Sharks were going to change up their play and team or keep steady with the team they’d started with. Just as the first scrum begun the Namibian side changed off two of their players and the Sharks brought in one from the bench. Not a huge change but for the Sharks it meant more weight on the ground.
I must admit the crowd had grown and the electricity in the air had started to spark! The points were counted and every time someone looked like they were about to break through our defense cries from the crowd were heard from one end to the other. At one point during the game, two men decided to have a “boep off” proudly busting out some dance moves which showcased their boeps in the most spectacular way! The crowd went wild as the men took each other on, what a laugh and so much fun!
The game in itself was rough, both sides fought until the end with passion and strength. It was amazing to watch both the players and their supporters! The winning team were The Cell C Sharks with a score of 48 – 18.
After the game both players and fans all headed off to Max’s Lifestyle in the middle of Umlazi Township. Here we were able to interact with the players, grab some dinner and celebrate the match.
And let’s be clear on one thing, our boys may have moves on the field, but they also have some serious swagger on the dance floor. It was great fun watching the team spend some time on the dance floor just before departure.
So yet another successfully hosted and won game by The Cell C Sharks brought to you by Durban Tourism and Field of Dreams. As usual thank you to everyone involved in making this event happen! There will be one final Currie Cup game happening in the Township Tour Series on Friday 20th May 2016 at the Princess Magogo Stadium in Kwa-Mashu, where the Cell C Sharks take on the Lions.
And As Always…
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