Skip to main content

Soccer City to host rugby international

Johannesburg's Soccer City was rebuilt for the 2010 World Cup, the first to be held on the African continent.
Johannesburg's Soccer City was rebuilt for the 2010 World Cup, the first to be held on the African continent.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Soccer City will host a rugby union international between South Africa and New Zealand
  • Johannesburg stadium was the scene of South Africa's most famous freedom rallies
  • Rugby in the country has traditionally been dominated by whites
  • The August 21 fixture will be Springboks' first home game of 2010 Tri-Nations series

(CNN) -- Soccer City, once the venue of South Africa's most significant black freedom rallies, will next month host a sport that was open only to whites in the country's apartheid-rule era.

Rugby officials announced on Wednesday that South Africa's Springboks will take on New Zealand's All Blacks at the Johannesburg soccer stadium, which stages the 2010 World Cup final this weekend.

The rebuilt ground, scene of Nelson Mandela's first speech in the city after his release from prison in 1990, is situated near the predominantly black township of Soweto.

"This is an historic day and one in which the whole of South Africa can celebrate," South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins said in a statement on the ruling body's website.

It allows us to continue the nation building through sport that we have enjoyed throughout the FIFA World Cup
--SARU president Oregan Hoskins
RELATED TOPICS
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • Springboks
  • Rugby
  • FIFA World Cup

"Taking the Springboks to what is already an iconic world venue gives our players and supporters the best stage on which to enjoy rugby. But it also allows us to continue the nation building through sport that we have enjoyed throughout the FIFA World Cup."

Check out a 360-degree panorama of Soccer City

While South African rugby was once dominated by whites, the game has become more mixed there -- especially since hosting the 1995 World Cup -- and players such as Chester Williams and Bryan Habana have become household names.

The Blue Bulls rugby team also played a Super 14 match at Soweto's Orlando Stadium in May this year as their home venue in Pretoria was unavailable due to the World Cup.

The August 21 fixture will be South Africa's first home match of the 2010 Tri-Nations tournament, which also features Australia.

Soccer City, which is also known as National Stadium, has a capacity of 88,791.

The SARU has made some tickets available at reduced prices in order to get near the previous best crowd for a home rugby international -- 95,000 at Johannesburg's Ellis Park when the British Lions visited in 1955.

More than 9,000 of the available tickets will be sold at 350 Rand ($45) and 5,000 for just 100 rand ($13).

The match had originally been scheduled for Ellis Park, but host province Golden Lions agreed to make the switch.

"The only thing that surprised us was the near unanimity of our stakeholders in embracing this decision," Lions chairman Kevin De Klerk said.

"The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and as much as we love Ellis Park, there was widespread agreement that we must take such a significant rugby match to one of the best stadiums not just in South Africa but in the world.

"I'd particularly like to thank [our] key sponsors ... They have had to make major sacrifices on some of their contractual rights but the way they have supported us in recognizing the potential benefits of this move -- not just for rugby, but for South Africa -- has been magnificent."

The Springboks will begin the defense of their Tri-Nations crown in New Zealand on Saturday, the first of two clashes with the Kiwis before heading to Australia for a match in Brisbane on July 24.