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Cheering rugby crowds set to return to NMB Stadium

NMB Stadium
NMB Stadium
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The sound of fans cheering their team will be heard for the first time in more than two years at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium when EP’s Elephants face old enemies the Border Bulldogs on Saturday.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic supporters were locked out of the stadium in an effort to halt the spread of the virus which brought sport to a standstill.

Even when teams started playing last year, crowds continued to be locked out which resulted in the Springboks’ two Tests against Argentina being played behind closed doors in Gqeberha.

In normal times those Tests would have attracted capacity 45,000 crowds to watch international rugby.

There was an eerie atmosphere when Boks played in front of rows of empty seats with the calls of players rather than fans echoing around the empty stadium.

Though the liquidated Southern Kings regularly played PRO14 matches at the Stadium, EP Rugby CEO Thando Manana says it is seven long years since the Elephants played a Currie Cup game at the stadium.

With EP winning both their opening matches in the Currie Cup First Division Promotion barometer for SA teams hopes are high this will be one of the Elephants’ best campaigns for several seasons.

The rewards for teams playing in the Currie Cup First Division are higher than usual because the side finishing at the top of the log will win promotion to the top flight Premier Division for two seasons.

There have been many false dawns in recent years, but under new coach Dumisani Mhani there is renewed optimism EP have a squad capable of putting Eastern Cape Rugby back on the map.

Manana and Mhani are calling on EP fans to come out in big numbers as EP bid for a third consecutive win in the Promotion League for SA teams.

Before the Currie Cup kicked off EP’s president Maasdorp Cannon said the NMB Stadium is Gqeberha’s equivalent to Rome’s colosseum and must not be a dead monument shrouded in mist and inactivity.

Hopefully the stands at NBM Stadium will be filled with supporters cheering the Elephants on to a much needed third victory on Saturday.

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