Soweto - The Bulls will return to the venue where they were they last claimed the Super 14 title in 2010 when they take on the Golden Lions in a Gauteng Rugby Cup match at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday, February 2.
While the match will be the Bulls' first warm-up match ahead of this year’s Super Rugby season it also forms part of the union’s 75-year anniversary.
Just months after Orlando Pirates celebrated their 75-year history in South African football, the Blue Bulls Rugby Union will kick off theirs at the home ground of the PSL champions.
Orlando Stadium was the venue of euphoric scenes when Bulls fans invaded Soweto for the semi-final against the Crusaders and final against the Stormers the following week on May 29.
“In 2010 we had two sold out matches for the Bulls matches against the Crusaders and the Stormers at Orlando Stadium,” Gauteng MEC for Sports and recreation Lebogang Maile said on Thursday.
“There was excitement and enthusiasm about the return of rugby to Soweto. I’m hoping that our community supports the Gauteng Rugby Cup with the same euphoria and anticipation as they did for the Super Rugby matches back in 2010.”
The Northern Transvaal Rugby Union as the Blue Bulls were known when it was established in 1938 lost their first match as an independent union against the Lions, the then Transvaal.
The Gauteng Rugby Cup therefore features a historic clash that will bring back memories of the first ever encounter between these unions.
Blue Bulls chief executive Barend van Graan highlighted the significance of the venue in the history of the union.
The Bulls were forced to sacrifice its spiritual home, Loftus Versfeld for their important semi-finals and finals of the 2010 Super Rugby season and were forced to use Orlando Stadium as their new adopted home-base.
While the stadium in Soweto was unfamiliar to Bulls and rugby fans alike, the rugby supporters were welcomed to the area with open arms and proved to be an ally in their pursuit of their third Super14 title.
“When we decided to play in Orlando, Soweto in 2010 we did not know Orlando, I’m not going to elaborate on what happened in those two weeks but it was one of the highlights in the history of the Blue Bulls,” Van Graan said.
“This time we have a choice to come here, at that stage Loftus Versfeld were part of the 2010 Soccer World Cup and we couldn’t play there.”
Van Graan said the match was the kick-off of a number of celebrations in their 75 year anniversary.
“The Gauteng Rugby Cup represents the very beginnings of our Union and that in itself is a special moment,” he said.
“The team is looking forward to returning to Orlando Stadium and experiencing that unreserved Soweto support once again. This is also a great opportunity for our fans and the public to help us honour our past heroes and to motivate our team for their upcoming Super Rugby campaign.”
Golden Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk said he hoped matches such as this one would spike interest in rugby with fans that did not traditionally support the sport.
“The more we can endeavour to bring rugby to Soweto and previously disadvantaged areas on a big scale that is the message we need to get across to the youngsters, to excite them and motivate them to play rugby,” De Klerk said.