WATCH | When Ellis Park warmed up for Clegg, Small and Australia's 11-year absence

Sbu Nkosi of the Springboks and Reece Hodge of Wallabies fight for the ball in mid air during their championship rugby encounter at Emirates Airline Park on 20/07/2019.
Sbu Nkosi of the Springboks and Reece Hodge of Wallabies fight for the ball in mid air during their championship rugby encounter at Emirates Airline Park on 20/07/2019.
Image: Masi Losi

At a bitterly cold and windswept Ellis Park, an opportunity to grasp a necessary culture change was missed, but tributes paid to the late Johnny Clegg and James Small were hearty and warm.

In what was Australia's first Test at the ground in 11 years, the face of the South African rugby supporter has changed. Whether the general South African stadium going supporter is aware of it is a different story.

Being the home and the fortress of Springbok rugby except when the All Blacks are in town, the Doornfontein-based arena is where the game should experience the necessary changes.

While the stadium announcer was hopeful, it was unfortunate the crowd didn't buy into the Gwijo Squad and the change its helping to bring into SA rugby stadiums in terms of racial and singing demographics, the group in grey weren't disappointed.

It was again up to the DJ, the same one who played Mgarimbe's hit track “Sister Bettina” in the Springbok Test against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld last year, to show his diverse taste in music and liven up the crowd.

And he pulled the same party trick to better effect as Ellis Park's enclosed nature makes for better acoustics.

However, it was going to be difficult for him to get the crowd going with DJ Tira's “I won't let you down” and even Kurt Darren's “Kaptein” failed to energise the crowd.

Back to the Gwijo Squad, who were seated on the east side of the ground and what they bring to rugby.

Effectively, they take the singing culture prevalent in Eastern Cape club, provincial and schools games to the international arena.

They were audible in previous Ellis Park outings, but at the Wanderers for international cricket matches, they've made their presence felt.

Their presence and their would have made Mr Clegg proud and with the chattering din, they could be heard.

However, the crowd was warm to the various Johnny Clegg and Juluka songs that played throughout the build-up and before kick-off.

With the late James Small's kids running onto the field with the legendary “Impi” song booming around the ground, it was then when the crowd made their considerable presence felt.

Small's kids may not have seen their father play for the Lions before he moved to the Sharks and Western Province, but it was here where their father not only made his debut against New Zealand back in 1992, but wrote his name into rugby folklore when he stood his ground against the late, great All Black wing Jonah Lomu.

Sometimes, this game that is rugby and life in general finds ways of coming full circle.

There also was the significant sight of incumbent captain Siya Kolisi donning the water bib and being of help to his team mates.

It goes without saying that you pick the team before you pick the captain and at all times, you have to be of service to your team mates.

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