A new home for WP Rugby

The historic Newlands rugby stadium.

Western Province Rugby is facing the end of an era as it plays it last season at Newlands next year before finding a new home at the Cape Town Stadium in 2021.

WP Rugby will become the primary anchor tenant at the stadium, according to a joint statement issued by the rugby union and the City last Friday.

But deputy mayor Ian Neilson said Cape Town Stadium would still remain a facility for all, where a variety of events could be enjoyed.

“From February 1, 2021, it is foreseen that WP Rugby will become the primary anchor tenant of the Cape Town Stadium, potentially for the next 99 years,” he said.

WP Rugby CEO Paul Zacks said they had agreed to a “mutually beneficial revenue sharing model” with the City that gave the union “preferential access” to play all of its senior professional rugby matches at the Cape Town Stadium.

WP Rugby president Zelt Marais said the deal would ensure the union’s financial sustainability and grow the game in the future.

Newlands is the oldest rugby stadium in the country and has been home to WP Rugby since 1888.

Newlands also hosted the Springboks in many memorable games.

In 1995, former president Nelson Mandela opened the Rugby World Cup there, and the Springboks played the Wallabies.

The stadium also hosted a memorable 1995 World Cup semi-final when New Zealand thrashed England. That was the day the late great Jonah Lomu announced himself on the world stage, scoring four tries to get his team to the Ellis Park final, where the Springboks beat them 15-12, thanks to an extra-time drop goal by Joel Stransky.

Newlands Residents’ Association chairperson March Turnbull says many have wonderful, and sometimes heartbreaking, memories of watching rugby at Newlands, and residents will be sad to see the stadium go.

“The impact on residents, in terms of the local loss of heritage and the daily implications of what will be massive redevelopment, will only become clear when we see the detailed proposals.”

Two nearby schools have also provided safe parking for rugby fans over the years.

Sans Souci Girls’ High School principal Ruschda O’ Shea said it would be sad to see rugby leave Newlands.

“It was a good income generator for the school, and it helped us to ease the financial burden from parents as the money supplemented many of our activities we offer at school.”

Groote Schuur High School principal Marius Ehrenreich said: “It has been a great journey, which is sadly coming to an end, and we hope that the new tradition will provide much joy to rugby patrons for years to come.”

Colin Wing is the co-owner of Tai Ping Chinese Restaurant, which has been in Newlands for 37 years. He said rugby had been very good to his business.

“It used to bring us much business with patrons coming from all over Cape Town and the rest of the country to watch Currie Cup, Super 15 and even international test matches.

“It is sad to see a stadium with so much tradition and many great memories no longer be there for future generations to enjoy.”

Mr Nielson said the deal with WP Rugby would help to keep Cape Town Stadium going.

“Studies found that rugby would be the most viable economic sporting option and that this would benefit both rugby and the Cape Town Stadium equally.”

Both the City and WP Rugby told the Tatler they could not comment on what the future held for Newlands stadium once the rugby union left.

Weekend Argus early last month, citing an unconfirmed report, said WP Rugby had struck a R110 million deal with Investec for the development rights to the stadium.

Investec would not confirm this, however, when approached for comment by the Tatler. The company also did not respond to other emailed questions.