Hardcore Cape Town rugby fans are being urged to switch allegiances this weekend - to the Stormers.
Newlands should be a hostile cauldron for the Crusaders in Sunday morning's Super semi-final but there are genuine concerns in the Western Cape they will be greeted like conquering heroes instead of invaders on Sunday morning.
Despite the Stormers representing the Western Province region, a large number of coloured fans refuse to cheer for the team and instead elect to barrack for the Crusaders whenever they arrive in Cape Town.
When the Crusaders played at Newlands last month the vocal supporters made the ground seem like a second home for the tourists; they cheered loudly for the visitors, who marched to an improbable 20-14 victory following injuries to a number of key players, and controversially booed and jeered the Stormers.
Afterwards Stormers captain Schalk Burger reflected the support for the Crusaders made it seem as if the game was staged in Christchurch and there are now concerns in South Africa that there could be a repeat performance in this weekend's semi.
Even South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins has become involved as he urged "all rugby fans in South Africa to get behind the Stormers''.
"Rugby has positive ramifications for the whole of Cape Town, for the Western Cape and South Africa,'' Hoskins said this week.
"It's not just the people at Newlands, but 50 million people across South Africa. Let's rally, and put aside our healthy differences.''
And after the Sharks were beaten 36-8 by the Crusaders in Nelson last weekend, Springboks skipper John Smit said on his social media site that his countrymen should barrack for the team from the Western Cape.
"Now we must all become Stormers fans ...'' he tweeted.
Coloured fans' support for New Zealand sides is a hangover from when the country was ruled by the apartheid regime and they cheered for All Blacks' teams to bowl the Springboks who were dominated by white players.
But despite the country undergoing massive change in the last 20 years some fans refuse to support their countrymen. They state they still feel marginalised by their local rugby administrators said Hoskins.
However, Stormers coach Allister (CRRCT) Coetzee said that was incorrect, stating any player with enough ability would be considered for representative teams.
"I think that players who have really performed, there is no way they will be overlooked.''
Coetzee was also confident his side would have their share of support as they chase their first Super title.
"We had a chat about it as a team and it is definitely not ideal if people from your own city boo you as you step off the bus. Normally we get cheered. We know we still have, across the spectrum, a solid support base in Cape Town.''
A number of newspapers in the city have given the subject front page prominence this week, with the Cape Argus have a front page headline that stated: "The game that splits a city''.
Meanwhile, Newlands will be a sell-out with all 48,000 tickets selling last week and scalpers have been reported as advertising tickets for sale at four times their face value.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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