In America we love, obsess over, and even dedicate an entire day of the week to one sport: football. I grew up not only watching games, but being a part of cheerleading squads that are trained to yell, hype up, and grow passion for the sport. I grew to not only respect the athletes, but love the game and fall into the excitement that it brought each week. As a fourth year Northwestern Cheerleader, I’ve spent every fall and winter quarter cheering on the NU football and basketball teams, but this winter quarter it was time to cheer for a different game.
On the first Monday of the academic term, coincidentally the day after the 2019 Super Bowl, the University of Stellenbosch hosted the first Rugby game of the 2019 season at Coetzenburg stadium. The Stellenbosch Maties were playing the Johannesburg Wits. I didn’t know what to expect when going to this game since I was used to 1) cheering on the sidelines and 2) cheering on football instead of Rugby. I was excited to see what the atmosphere was like and if the fans got as excited for Rugby here as the fans in the U.S. did about football.
So, my friends and I geared up as we would for a football game back home. We had on our Maties maroon colored gear, grabbed a few drinks, and headed to the stadium about an hour before the game started. When we got there, the energy of the crowd was incredible. Everybody in the stadium was already cheering on the team warming up, there was loud music playing, and even a section of students with their stomachs painted. This had been one of the first times I’ve felt at home here in Stellenbosch, because the game atmosphere reminded me of the millions of games I’ve cheered in the past. Throughout the game the energy persisted, and it was an awesome experience. My friends on the GHT program are already planning a tailgate before the next Rugby game. It may have been a different sport than I was used to, but the passion and love for the game was just the same. Go Maties!