Danie Craven Stadium the stuff of boyhood dreams for DHL Stormers stars

It’s against the backdrop of the magnificent Stellenbosch mountains and the equally impressive backdrop of rugby history in this town that a few DHL Stormers players will relive boyhood memories and their rugby dreams when they run out onto the Danie Craven Stadium field in Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixture against Connacht.

The iconic stadium, named after South African rugby legend Danie “Doc” Craven, has become a welcome second home for the DHL Stormers. And for a few players in their squad, it’s the perfect place to open the defence of their Vodacom United Rugby Championship title this weekend.

“I went to school in Stellenbosch at Paul Roos Gimnasium and it was always exciting for me to go to the Danie Craven Stadium to watch the Varsity Cup matches. As a schoolboy you wanted to strive to be on that same field one day,” says hooker Chad Solomon.

“In my Grade 11 year we played most of our school’s First Team matches at the Danie Craven Stadium. So that’s where it started me for, playing there in front of those crowds. It was a real honour. It’s like a dream come true when you run out into that stadium for the first time at the age of 17. I won a Varsity Cup final there playing for UCT Ikey Tigers and that’s still one of my favourite rugby memories from this stadium. This is a rugby town with great history and it feels special to give back to the game of rugby in this way.”

Lock Ernst van Rhyn also has fond memories of this stadium as a youngster.

“I would go and watch Varsity Cup matches there as a young boy, and I had a few good years at Maties – we won two trophies there. To now run out onto that field in a DHL Stormers jersey is very special for me. To come back to where it sort of started in my career, and to look back and realise, ‘Ok, you’ve come this far. Now let’s focus on the next part of the journey’. It’s very special for me.”

Van Rhyn explained exactly what makes the Danie Craven Stadium such a special experience for a South African player.

“It’s the history. When you think of how many South African rugby legends played for Maties on this field, and you also think of Doc Craven and all the stories about him. But also the atmosphere. The students bring a lot of gees. It’s a real mixture of history and tradition coming together for something really exciting.”

Centre Dan du Plessis grew up mesmerised by stories of his father, Springbok Michael du Plessis, playing for Maties at the Danie Craven Stadium.

“We moved to Stellenbosch for high school where I went to Paul Roos Gimnasium. We lived near the stadium and I spent a lot of time kicking a rugby ball on that field and training there after school. My dad played a lot in that stadium in his years at Maties. It has such a rich rugby history, and it’s a privilege for me to also step out onto that field.”

And prop Neethling Fouche said he never fails to get goosebumps whenever he plays at the Danie Craven Stadium. “The setting alone is probably one of the most beautiful in the world. The university students and the vibe they bring is really like an extra player on the field for you.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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