Former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen took steps to try turn the Newlands rugby stadium into a national heritage site as a way to prevent it from being sold and demolished.
As reported by News24 and Netwerk24, Claasen filed the papers over the weekend to have the Newlands stadium declared as a heritage site. Early this year, the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) and SA Rugby announced that Newlands was to be placed on the market in a sealed bidding process. According to SA Rugby Mag, the deadline for submission of non-binding offers was 15 April, with submission of final binding offers on 31 May.
The proposed sale was Tuesday, but the winning bid is only expected to be announced at the end of the month.
But Claasen, who captained the Boks on their 1981 tour to New Zealand, hopes to prevent the stadium from being sold to a developer, believing the sale will result in a demolition of this historic site. Along with other unknown individuals, he launched the Save Newlands Rugby Stadium campaign and has applied to the Western Cape government to declare the Newlands stadium a heritage site.
“For me it’s about the historical and social value. We feel that you can keep Newlands in its current form and with much less expenses convert it into an unbelievable tourist attraction,” he said.
It is reported that Claasen’s application was submitted “before the final sale contracts were signed on Tuesday”.
“I am not talking just as a rugby player, but as an architect. The preservation and restoration of this historical building is close to my heart. Newlands has been in use for more than 130 years,” Claassen added.
But Claasen might be too late. Rian Oberholzer, SA Rugby-appointed administrator who manages WP’s affairs, told Netwerk24 that the sale would go ahead.
“How long have they known about this? Why are they coming up with this now? It’s too late. The process is almost complete,” Oberholzer said.
Claasen is not alone in this battle. A small but determined following online has tried to gather more support in this quest to save Newlands stadium by creating Save Newlands Stadium on Facebook. There is also an online petition to Western Province Rugby Union and the City of Cape Town which currently has 466 signatures.
“For over a century, this iconic stadium has been the backbone of memorable soccer and rugby events. Now owing to what is said to be financial constraints, the powers that be want to raze it to the ground and make the Cape Town Stadium (built for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and is now pretty much a white elephant running at a huge loss) the official stadium for any and all events, ” reads the petition description.
“Newlands Stadium is not about race or soccer vs rugby – it is about the second oldest stadium in the world being torn down due to mismanagement and lack of pride in what is surely one of the most scenic places in the world to have a stadium, much like the cricket grounds nearby, with our Table Mountain as a backdrop.
“We, the undersigned, are totally against the demolition of the stadium and moving events over to the CT Stadium. If the current leadership at the WPRU cannot manage the stadium properly, find people who have the passion, knowledge and willpower to do so,” it concludes
The first official match at Newlands took place on 31 May 1890 and have since hosted countless rugby matches and other sports events. In 1995, Newlands hosted the opening match of the Rugby World Cup.
The Stormers and Western Province has since moved their home base to the Cape Town Stadium in 2021, where the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final will take place today at 7.30pm.
Picture: @PlanetRugby / Twitter