It has taken nine years between All Black visits to Cape Town and this weekend’s Rugby Championship fixture against the Springboks could be the last at Newlands.
It is only a matter of time before Western Province Rugby moves across to Cape Town Stadium in Green Point and, although that move might be some years off, it is unlikely that the old stadium will see the All Blacks again.
From 2020, SA Rugby will have full power in nominating where Springbok Test matches are played. By taking away the "right" to host Tests from provincial unions, SA Rugby will schedule big Bok matches in stadiums of its choosing. This could even include countries such as the US.
It is also no secret that SA Rugby prefers the world-class Cape Town Stadium as a venue. In its Rugby World Cup 2023 bid book, Newlands is not on the fixture list.
"The Test rugby calendar has been set until 2032, so we
know who and where we are going to play, with the exception of matches against tier-two nations," SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said on April 6. "That gives us the chance to now allocate Tests for 14 years and ... we
ratified a big constitutional change which gives SA Rugby control of Test matches.
"We can now take big Tests overseas if it makes commercial sense, and we can decide where to host Test matches locally. But it will be done through those committees – the franchise [professional] and nonfranchise [nonprofessional], which do have provincial representation."
There were some security and safety issues that Western Province needed to resolve for the stadium to obtain a compliance certificate from the City of Cape Town. The union did so, but the controversy sent out a negative signal about the ageing stadium’s suitability for such high-profile matches.
This weekend will be the 10th Test between the Springboks and All Blacks at Newlands, with the visitors having won six out of the previous nine and three out of four in the professional era.
Only Ellis Park, with 14 clashes between the rivals, has hosted more contests in SA than Newlands. There have also been two meetings at the National Stadium in Soweto.
In 48 Tests against New Zealand in SA, the Boks have won 25, the All Blacks 22 and there was one draw, but Newlands has never been a stronghold for the home team. If it is to be the last Test between the sides at the ground, the Boks have extra motivation for trying to make it a good send-off.
The last time they met at Newlands, in 2008, the All Blacks won 19-0.
The 2017 contest does not have the same blockbuster feel as any of the previous occasions, because the widening gulf between the two teams has become so evident.
But it will also be the end of an era for Cape Town. And with a bit of luck, perhaps the beginning of a new, more successful one for the Boks?