Go Lions!

The Lions mascot cheering before the game
The Lions mascot cheering before the game

I am not a big fan of sporting events – not even cricket despite being an Indian! I never really choose to watch a game on TV let alone a live one which entails actually going to a stadium. A lot of this can be attributed to the poor experience I had the one time I went to see a cricket match with some friends whilst in college – queuing up 3 hours in advance, waiting in the sweltering Delhi heat, getting pushed and shoved and then not being allowed to carry even a bottle of water inside, is not really my idea of a fun day (my friends however, are ardent fans and frequent fixtures at IPL – Indian Premier League matches).

But since having come to South Africa, I have been on a ‘try new things’ spree. So when a friend offered to take us to a rugby match, K and I readily agreed. Having never watched rugby before, I asked K for a download of some basic rules. He happily pointed me to a website…Grrrr.  But soon realised that he wasn’t gonna score any points with that attitude, and  quickly made amends by explaining the basics!

The game was between the Gauteng home team,  the Lions and the Reds from Australia at the Ellis Park stadium in the heart of Joburg. I had been meaning to check the place out for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity. My friend had arranged to have a ‘braai’ (bar-be-que) before the game. In SA, any large public event is almost always preceded by a braai and bakkies and cars loaded with baskets of meat, beer coolers and lots of snacks, are a common sight. Since outside food is not allowed inside the venues, people meet a few hours prior to the start of the event and set up their braai in the area around the paring lots.

On the given day, dressed in red – the official color of the Lions (the actual Reds wore white!), armed with packs of beer and food, we made our way to Ellis Park two hours before the start of the game.  Unfortunately, by the time the other half of our party, that was carrying all the braai-stuff, arrived and we managed to locate one another, it was too late to braai. So we just proceeded to down a few beers instead and grab a bite once inside.

With half an hour to go, we made our way inside and I was surprised at how well things were organised. There were no queues to speak of, except outside the beer counters! We found our seats easily and the game began sharp at 5pm.

Rugby is divided into two halves of 40 minutes each with a maximum of 10 minutes half-time break, making it a fairly quick game. Each side has 15 players each with seven substitutes. The main goal of the teams is to score more points than the other (to know more about the game and its rules, please visit rugby overview).

The first half  ended rather abysmally for the Lions as they finished 6 to 20 against the Reds. Although I did not catch much, gauging from the reactions (and booing of the people around me), the Lions seemed to have made several mistakes. Since the majority of the crowd consisted of Lions’ fans, their disappointment and frustration was palpable. It was heartening to see that irrespective of the game or the country, the emotions expressed at a game, are the same across the world.

Things improved rather drastically in the second half. The Lions came back with a vengeance and before long, tables turned. The Reds were slapped with several penalties while the Lions managed to take more control over the ball, scoring points for their team. In the final moments, the Lions scored again and managed to win the game at 23 to 20. The noise was deafening as the fans cheered and jumped with joy. I  was glad the Lions had won because the losing spectacle would not have been anything to write home about!

(to see pictures of the game, please click the slideshow below)

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