A Vodacom Super Rugby season that was bigger than the game

The 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby season made an impact far greater than any log table or trophy cabinet can ever reflect.

From February to June this year, South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby players, sponsors, celebrities and fans came together to tackle, donate, cycle or support in any way possible a #TacklingCancer campaign that’s given the Childhood Cancer Foundation (CHOC) a million more reasons to keep helping children fight the biggest battles of their lives.

Together, South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby community helped to raise R1-million for CHOC, which Vodacom and SuperSport handed over at the exclusive CHOC Golf Day at Randpark Golf Club on 8 August.

Between the opening fireworks of Super Hero Sunday in the Cape Town Stadium and a hard-fought final down in Christchurch New Zealand, this was always going to be a season designed to use rugby to make a difference in these children’s lives.

On the fields, the “super heroes” of the South African teams tackled their hearts out as Vodacom and SuperSport together donated R100 for every tackle made by a South African player during the season to CHOC.

“We’re supporting a great cause with CHOC and it’s great to be able to make a difference in this way,” said Vodacom Bulls and Springbok star Duane Vermeulen.

On the side of the fields, several CHOC Cycle-a-Thons saw celebrities and even stars from other sports codes throwing their full support behind #TacklingCancer as they cycled for the duration of a rugby match and encouraged their followers to donate.

“What a phenomenal day, and we were out there doing something for our CHOC kids as well,” said footballer Neil Winstanley.

Beyond the stadiums, the players took the time to travel into the heart of their communities and spent time encouraging the CHOC children at everything from movie outings to hospital visits.

The Cell C Sharks took their CHOC kids for a movie day at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping, while the DHL Stormers did the same with their CHOC children at the Bayside Mall.

The Emirates Lions treated the CHOC children, parents, caregivers and staff of the Saxonwold and Diepkloof CHOC facilities to a house party with giant inflatables and as much popcorn as they could eat. And they donated a new double-door fridge to the Diepkloof CHOC house.

The Vodacom Bulls went to visit the CHOC children in the Steve Biko Academic Hospital’s Paediatric Oncology Ward on International Childhood Cancer Day with the same message Duane Vermeulen tells himself every time he runs onto a rugby field: “Never give up. Believe in yourself”.

Even the fans made a difference in their own way as they purchased Vodacom Super Rugby tickets and added R5 for CHOC, or bought the CHOC merchandise on sale at the CHOC Shops at every stadium for the South African Derbies. Many also went online to donate directly at www.choc.org.

This was indeed a season that was bigger than the game.

At the start of the Vodacom Super Rugby season, Vodacom Bulls coach Pote Human spoke to a group of fathers at the Vodacom Red Father and Son Sleepout at Loftus Versfeld, and gave them this advice regarding their young sons: “Just support your children”.

This Vodacom Super Rugby season, South African rugby did exactly that.