May 30, 2010 / 12:01 AM / 10 years ago

Rugby-South Africans unite in township rugby final

* Bulls thrash Stormers in Super 14 final

* First rugby final held in a township

By Xola Potelwa

SOWETO, South Africa, May 29 (Reuters) - Bulls supporter Eldre Janse van Rensburg had never set foot in Soweto, South Africa’s biggest township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, before Saturday’s Super 14 rugby final.

“I was shocked to hear we were going to be playing in Soweto but it turned out pretty good,” the 20-year-old student told Reuters.

Home to 1 million poor black South Africans and a legacy of the country’s divided past and its apartheid laws, Soweto was an usual choice for a rugby match.

The game was held at the Orlando Stadium because the Bulls’ home ground in Pretoria is being prepared for the soccer World Cup finals, which South Africa will host from June 11-July 11.

“Everybody was friendly, the game was great... To see a white person walking down Soweto streets with a beer in hand is awesome. We will definitely be back,” Jeanne Hesquar, another Bulls fan, said.

Soweto is usually a soccer-crazy community, but on Saturday most of its residents stood in support of the rugby game, blowing their loud plastic horns known as vuvuzelas as the Bulls thrashed rival Stormers in an all South African final. [ID:nLDE64S0G1]

Houses close to the stadium opened up their gardens to fans, who were grilling sausages and drinking as if in their own homes. The residents were happy to receive them, saying they were curious about the fanatical Bulls fans.

“They should bring the games to other (black) areas, it’s good for business and the fans feel welcomed here,” said Mpumi Khubeka, who was selling beer from her front yard.

The Orlando stadium will be used as a training ground during the soccer World Cup and will host a ‘Kick-Off Celebration Concert’ on June 10. Organisers used Saturday’s rugby game as a logistics test.

President Jacob Zuma and Archbishop Desmond Tutu attended the game, the first major rugby competition to be held in a township.

Zuma walked onto the pitch just before the game — as former President Nelson Mandela did at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.

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