And now it is time to visit the 80’s ………………… 

It was the decade of big hair, big phones, pastel suits, Cabbage Patch Kids, Rubik’s cubes, Yuppies, Air Jordans, shoulder pads and Pac Man. More importantly it was an era of iconic moments that changed the world.   The first cell phone weighed close to one kilogram! Imagine carrying a bag of potatoes by your ear? It is hard to believe that this contraption would become the compact object of our obsession it is today.

Meanwhile at the Wanderers Club it was not a bright outlook, for the scenario set by the hectic 70’s contained many dark areas of difficulty and anxiety which would call for sharp thinking and planning by committees and a good deal of co-operation, devotion and understanding on the part of the members.   This by no means meant that the future was completely bleak, although the climate of the previous decade set the tone for one to be a pessimist rather than an optimist.  The experts at the time were in fact predicting an economic boom for the country and should that happen some rub-off on the Club would without doubt be welcomed with open arms.

New horizons were being reached in the fields of technology and science and by the dawn of 1980, humans on the planet had reached a state of sophistication and inventiveness far higher than ever before.  This, however, did not extinguish all human problems with warfare, strikes, unrest, terrorism and violence still prevailing due to man’s fundamental hostility towards his neighbour.  The huge Wanderers stadium stands remained empty due to the ongoing isolation of South African sport.

Inflation, had once again affected the Club’s financial affairs to such an extent that no expansions or improvements to facilities could be considered and even normal maintenance was proving to be difficult and costly.    Despite all the drama that inflation was causing, it did not deter the Club from fulfilling its function of providing the best facilities to the sporting community who thankfully continued to show their support.  One drawback to this was the gradual swing to professional sport at club level introducing greed into the mix with commercial sponsorships, which in turn then became an important aspect of mass entertainment.

At the time, the Club frowned on the appearance of players attired in clothing covered in sponsors’ slogans and the awarding of money incentives in club events and tournaments.

In the early 80’s the Club introduced multi-racial sectional membership offering people of different racial groups the opportunity to share in the facilities available at the Club.

Nothing of great significance happened at the Club in the first few months of 1980, and it had been gently jogging along with several hundreds of members playing their various sports and participating in recreation.  The Club kept a low profile and chose not to operate in the glare of publicity to fulfil its function as a home of sport, and it might have looked a rather dull place to those who wallowed in the rousing headlines of modern sport.  But there was a lot to be said for peace and stability, especially in such unstable times and the Club was looked upon as a haven of sanity and orderliness as opposed to the hysterical and illogical ways of thinking and behaviour which had gripped sport in more exposed areas.

But despite the absence of violence and sensation, the Wanderers Club was hardly a backwater attracting sports player, and spectators alike who regularly visited its premises and packed the facilities on weekends.

Although the past decade had been a strangely odd one, at Wanderers it had been an eventful one marked by some significant developments.  A test match was held at the Wanderers stadium attended by an orderly crowd of 32 000 which was refreshing considering the news of unruly mobs that attended overseas matches.  Regrettably, this was intended to be the last international cricket to be seen at the Wanderers as the Transvaal Cricket Council had decided to move their headquarters elsewhere.   But, after much debate and negotiation, the TCU and the Johannesburg City Council came to an agreement to allow the headquarters to remain at Wanderers for another 20 years with the Council taking over the maintenance of the stadium.

Saturday 26th April 1980 was a day of great significance for the Club when the South American rugby touring team ran out at the Wanderers Stadium as this marked the return of South African rugby to the international fold, from which it had been banished for four long years.  And so, on a sunny autumn afternoon of history-making at the Wanderers, there was an air of anticipation and hope, not just because this was the first test match ever to be played between South Africa and South America but also because of the promise of renewed links with former comrades from across the seas.



wanderers club History of The Wanderers Club Part 12 1

The Springboks were sponsored by the Milk Board, but there were plenty of suggestions for other types of beverages at the Wanderers Stadium – from spirits and beer to soft drinks.


wanderers club History of The Wanderers Club Part 12 2

A moment in the rugby test match at the Wanderers Stadium between South Africa and South America on Saturday April 26th 1980

 Despite its few drawbacks in the way of construction and capacity, the Wanderers stadium certainly proved itself an outstanding venue for top class rugby.

Two more tournaments were hosted that year from the British Lions but the following year, with the Transvaal Rugby Football Union having moved their headquarters, Wanderers would never see such matches again at the stadium as all future major fixtures were to be hosted at the new headquarters at Ellis Park.

As 1980 came to a close it was seen as a very strange year in many respects, but also an eventful and interesting one.  The main excitements at the Club had been those memorable rugby occasions when South America opposed South Africa in a first ever test match at the Wanderers stadium.  The Club was, as in years gone by, fully represented by its considerable forces of participants and its essential function in providing sporting opportunities for many hundreds of people.

After all, that is what Club spirit is all about!

To be continued/..13