Sensational sports stadiums

20 May 2004

South Africa’s world-class sports stadiums have hosted a number of massive sporting events.

For cricket there was the World Cup in 2003; for rugby there was the World Cup in 1995; for soccer there was the African Cup of Nations in 1996; for athletics there was the World Cup in 1998.

Some of the country’s stadiums rate among the best in the world. The Wanderers Cricket Stadium, for instance, seats just 28 000, but is known as the Bull Ring because of its electric atmosphere.

No less an authority than Brian Lara, after a thrilling one-day international between the West Indies and South Africa in February 2004, reckoned it was one of the finest theatres in which he had ever played.

Then there’s Newlands, regarded by many as the most picturesque Test cricket venue in the world. Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain stares down on the ground, and clouds rolling over the top of the mountain make for a stunning backdrop. The crowds at Newlands are also famously enthusiastic, and it has become a venue of choice for New Year’s Tests.

Johannesburg’s Ellis Park is a rugby cauldron. Playing at altitude against the Springboks is surely one of the tougher challenges in world rugby. It makes for a marvellous picture when filled to capacity, as it was on 24 June 1995, when South Africa met New Zealand in the World Cup final. Lifted by a united crowd, the Boks upset the All Blacks 15-12.

Durban’s Absa Stadium, formerly known as King’s Park, is home to one of the finest rugby experiences on the planet. With the stadium situated only a kilometre from the sea, the weather is mostly balmy. Many rugby fields surround the main stadium, and before and after games, families can be seen there braaiing, chatting, gathered together to talk about the game.

There’s plenty of entertainment provided after the game on a big stage where bands perform and players are interviewed and the fans hang around for hours afterwards to soak up the atmosphere.

South Africa’s premier soccer venue is the FNB Stadium, known as Soccer City. It seats a massive 94 700, and never has it made for a more thrilling sight than on 3 February 1996, when Bafana Bafana beat Tunisia in the final of the African Cup of Nations.

Johannesburg has also hosted the world’s best athletes at the Johannesburg Stadium.

And South Africa’s “natural” stadiums are something to behold. Take surfing, for example.

Jeffreys Bay, home to the MSF Billabong Pro six-star rated surfing contest, has become a surfing Mecca. That’s because of Supertubes, one of the longest and most consistently good waves in the world. It’s form is perfect, with awesome barrels that allow surfers to pull off superb and astounding moves both inside and outside the wave.

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