South Africa is the home of world-class sporting facilities capable of accommodating tens of thousands of spectators in comfort, such as the picturesque Newlands grounds, nestled at the foot of Cape Town’s mountains, and the energy-charged Wanderers Cricket Grounds in Johannesburg.
There are world-renowned rugby stadiums such as Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld, home fortress of the feared “Blue Bulls” team; Johannesburg’s Ellis Park, where the 1995 World Cup final was staged, and Durban’s Absa Stadium (formerly Kings Park), home of the Sharks.
Then there are some hugely impressive stadiums that were built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup: the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, known to football fans as Soccer City; Durban’s Moses Mahbida Stadium, with it’s iconic arch; and the beautiful Cape Town Stadium Stadium.
Keep a watch on the newspapers while you’re here – if a big international game is being played, it could be worth your while to go and watch.
Coca-Cola Park (Ellis Park)
South Park Road, Doornfontein, Johannesburg
Johannesburg’s Coca-Cola Park, formerly known as Ellis Park, was built in 1927 and it wasn’t long before it hosted its first rugby international, when South Africa faced the All Blacks in the first test in 1928, won 7-6 by the New Zealanders.
The Stadium has since become world famous and it played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand, won 15-12 by the Springboks in a tension-filled atmosphere that exploded into a celebration that engulfed the entire country.
The image of former President Nelson Mandela wearing the number six jersey of Bok captain Francois Pienaar is one that will remain in the memories of many people worldwide.
The original Ellis Park played host to the largest ever crowd at a rugby game in South Africa in 1955, when 100 000 spectators saw the Springboks go down 23-22 to the British Lions. The original ground, which also played host to cricket tests, was rebuilt in 1979-1980 and seven years later was listed on the stock exchange.
Today it is a top-class venue equipped with excellent facilities, and is home to the Golden Lions Rugby Union.
It plays host to many big concerts, and some of the world’s top music superstars, including the Rolling Stones, have graced the ground in New Doornfontein.
Whilst it is recognized primarily as a rugby ground, Ellis Park has also played host to some of the world’s greatest football teams, including Brazil, Manchester United and Arsenal.
The ground seats just over 62 000 spectators.
Bidvest Wanderers Cricket Stadium
Corlett Drive, Illovo, Johannesburg
Bidvest Wanderers Stadium
Affectionately referred to as the Bullring, The Wanderers Cricket Ground is South Africa’s largest test venue, capable of hosting 34 000 spectators. It is also home to 182 corporate suites and eight function rooms.
The Wanderers became the third ground in South Africa to become a test cricket venue in December 1956, having been built only one year earlier. When Ellis Park was rebuilt in 1979-1980, The Wanderers also became a test rugby ground, playing host to the South American Pumas in a 24-9 victory for the Springboks.
There is no doubt, however – especially since South Africa’s return to world cricket in 1991, when the country started competing against the entire world and not just Australia, England and New Zealand – that the Wanderers is a wonderful, vibrant cricket ground.
Since that time over R60-million has been spent on upgrading the facilities. The Unity stand at the south end of the ground was completed in November 1992 and officially opened by England great Sir Colin Cowdrey. In October 1994 the Trust Bank Memorial Stand on the northwest side of the ground was completed, followed by work on The Western Pavilion and the rebuilding of the Main Gate.
More work was done in 1996 with the upgrading of the lights, and in January 1997 The Wanderers played host to its first day-night international when South Africa beat India by four wickets. At the same time a giant screen television was installed, providing replays much to the delight of the spectators – and probably much to the horror of the umpires!
The Wanderers was in the spotlight again in 2003 when it hosted the final of cricket’s biggest event, the World Cup, on 18 March.
FNB Stadium (Soccer City)
Take a tour of grand FNB Stadium
Built in 1987, South Africa’s national soccer stadium has played host to some of the most memorable matches in South Africa’s soccer history.
South Africa defeated Congo 1-0 at the ground in 1997, in front of a delirious capacity crowd, to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time. And it was at the same venue that the 1996 African Cup of Nations kicked off and then finished with South Africa beating Tunisia by two goals to nil to give the entire country a welcome boost, especially as it followed only one year after the Springboks had won the Rugby World Cup, also in Johannesburg.
It was also the venue for the first mass rally to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, which drew over 100 000 people.
The FNB Stadium was the main venue for the 201 Fifa World Cup, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, and the World Cup final. Its seating capacity was increased to 94 700 for football’s showcase event, including 184 suites.
Other changes made for the World Cup include an enciciling roof, new changing rooms and new floodlighting.
The new-look stadium is certainly eye-catching with a distinctly African flavour. That’s because the design is based on the African pot known as a calabash.
The stadium is a short distance from the famous Soweto township, well known for its fanatical football supporters, who produced a humming, festive, and vibrant during atmosphere for the World Cup.
The Orlando Stadium is home to the popular Premier Soccer League club, Orlando Pirates, one of the most popular clubs in South Africa.
The ground, which has hosted many of Soweto’s famous derbies, between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2009.
It wasn’t used for any matches during the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, but was used for training by the World Cup participants.
It underwent a revamp in preparation for the event, with its capacity increasing from 24 000 to 40 000. Apart from the world class football facilities, the ground also boats a 200-seat auditorium, a conference centre, a gymnasium, and 120 hospitality suites.
Johannesburg’s Rand Stadium has, like the Orlando Stadium, was revamped and served as a training ground during the 2010 Fifa World Cup™. It was originally built in 1951.
Between 1951 and 1976, the stadium played host to some of South Africa’s top teams, including Highlands Park and Germiston Callies, while some of the visitors to grace the venue included Arsenal, Ajax Amsterdam, Newcastle United and Real Madrid.
The facility, however, with time, began to lose its shine and it became a bit of a white elephant until South Africa was awarded the World Cup. After that, the stadium was redeveloped over three years in a multi-million rand project.
Now, it sports a new grandstand roof and media facilties, new changing rooms, and a new pitch. However, the look and feel of the original venue has been retained, including a unique scoreboard in the north-eastern corner of the ground.
Its return was celebrated in May 2009 when the Rand Stadium hosted the Nedbank Cup final between Moroka Swallows and Pretoria University.
Kirkness Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria
Blue Bulls website
Situated in South Africa’s capital Pretoria and home to the Blue Bulls Currie Cup rugby side, and the Bulls Super 12 rugby team, Loftus Versfeld is one of the country’s premier sporting venues.
It has been in use as a rugby ground since 1908. Largely unchanged for many years, it underwent refurbishment in 1976 and was one of the primary venues for the 1995 Rugby World Cup, playing host to five matches.
For many years. the Blue Bulls (formerly known as Northern Transvaal) have been one of the most teams in South African provincial rugby and southern hemisphere competition.
Loftus has also proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Springboks; their victories there include a 61-22 pounding of Australia in 1997 and their biggest victory ever over one of the top-tier nations, a 96-13 humbling of Wales in 1998.
Premier Soccer League powerhosue Mamelodi Sundowns also play some of their bigger games at the ground.
Loftus Versfeld is not only home to sporting events, however. It has successfully hosted a number of big concerts, and with a media centre, corporate suites and spacious parking areas, is one of South Africa’s top stadiums.
Only minor improvements were needed for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, including to the floodlights, sound system and scoreboards. Seating capacity at the stadium was increased by 5 000 – from 45 000 to 50 000.
Corner South Street and West Lane, Centurion
Nashua Titans Official Website
A relatively new venue, built in 1986 to replace Berea Park, SuperSport Park in Centurion just outside Pretoria is an appealing cricket venue (no pun intended!), with lots of grassed banks and good seating on a well-equipped main stand, set in spacious surrounds. The grassed areas are conducive to a festive atmosphere and lend themselves to groups of friends and families having a good time watching the game. Corporate chalets add to the setting.
The ground first hosted a first-class match in December 1986 when Northern Transvaal faced the might of the Transvaal “Mean Machine”, one of the most powerful provincial cricket combinations ever seen in South Africa. In November 1995 it was awarded its first test when it hosted England and South Africa. The match was unfortunately rained out, but it was memorable for the fact that cricket legend Shaun Pollock made his debut for South Africa.
The next time the ground hosted a test the result was altogether better for home fans, both from the fact that the game was completed, and also that it resulted in a victory over Australia inside four days by eight wickets.
High praise from Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev was accorded SuperSport Park in 1992, when he rated the facilities at the ground as being among the best in the world.
It hosted five matches during the 2003 Cricket World Cup and hosted the final of the ICC Champions Trophy in 2009.
Sahara Park Newlands
Monorgan, 161, Camp Ground Road, Newlands
Nashua Cape Cobras Cricket
Acknowledged as one of the most scenic cricket grounds in the world, Newlands was officially opened in January 1888. Four years later the ground experienced its first taste of test cricket, hosting the third test between South Africa and Australia, won by the Australians by 10 wickets. The crowd attracted was estimated at 10 000, a record turnout.
The picturesque ground became famous for the Oaks and the superb background of mountains and clouds, but towards the end of the twentieth century it was agreed that the ground needed to undergo some changes. This began with the revamping of the Main Stand in 1984/85, improving seating capacity by 3 000 and providing upgraded media facilities.
Newlands underwent further changes in 1986 with floodlights and chalets being added. However, when South Africa was readmitted to international cricket in 1991, it became necessary to upgrade the ground once more.
The R85-million development took place over a number of years, eventually ending in January 1997. This included the demolition of the much-loved Oaks, but in its place impressive stands were erected which, while they couldn’t match the natural beauty of the Oaks, were nonetheless tastefully designed.
Today, Newlands remains one of South Africa’s most popular grounds, with enthusiastic crowds who like nothing more than a test in December or January, played in warm African sunshine in the shadow of the mountains.
Over the years Newlands has proved to be something of a bogey ground for South Africa, but the Proteas, since March 1994, when they lost to Australia by 9 wickets, they have built up a string of victories at the ground, including wins over Sri Lanka, England, India, Australia, Zimbabwe and the West Indies.
For any visitor, Newlands is a ground that breathes character and beauty, and it remains one of the most scenic settings for test cricket in the world today.
Newlands Rugby Stadium
11 Boundary Road, Newlands
Western Province Rugby Website
Newlands was first used for an official match in May 1890 when club rugby sides Villagers and Stellenbosch met in a match that was won by the university. The following year, on 5 September 1891, the ground hosted its first rugby test when the touring British Lions beat South Africa by four points to nil.
The ground has been pretty good to the Springboks, with the national team winning almost two-thirds of the matches they have played there. Newlands has also hosted two test matches that didn’t include the Boks. That happened during the 1995 World Cup and included the semi-final between New Zealand and England when Jonah Lomu, famouslly, scored four tries.
The Springboks scored a memorable 27-18 victory over defending champions Australia in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup at Newlands. The ground also saw a big 27-9 win over England in 1994, just one week after the English had thumped South Africa 32-15 in Pretoria.
In 1980, the Springboks did just enough to stay ahead of the 18-point haul of Lions’ flyhalf Tony Ward, scoring four tries to the Lions’ one in a 26-22 victory. In 1955, South Africa enjoyed a big 25-9 win over the British Lions in a four-match series that was drawn.
Newlands has a capacity of 51 9000 and is the home ground of the Stormers in the Super 12 and of Western Province in the Currie Cup. The seating is close to the field and with the crowd normally sizeable and festive, the atmosphere is one of the finest of any rugby ground in the world.
From time to time, the ground has also played host to Ajax Cape Town, a local Premier Soccer League team, which is an affiliate of the famous Dutch club, Ajax Amsterdam.
Cape Town Stadium
Cape Town Stadium – open to the public
The Cape Town Stadium was built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™. It hosted eight games in the tournament, including the semi-final showdown between The Netherlands and Uruguay, with a capacity of 64 100.
The stadium is a short distance from the ocean, with a backdrop of mountains, which makes for a spectacular setting. The stadium is also ideally located within a short walk of the transportation hub of the city.
A multi-purpose venue, the has a noise-reducing cladding on the exterior, which makes it ideal as a host of major events and concerts.
Premier Soccer League club, Ajax Cape Town, an affiliate of the famous ajax Amsterdam, plays regularly at Cape Town Stadium.
Sahara Stadium Kingsmead
2 Kingsmead Close, Durban
Dolphins Cricket Website
Little more than a stone’s throw from the ocean, Kingsmead is located in humid Durban, home to wonderful sandy beaches and surfing. The ground has played host to tests since January 1923 when England and South Africa played to a draw.
Highlights in the history of Kingsmead include South Africa’s innings and 129-run demolition of Australia in February 1970 when two of the game’s greats, Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards, thrashed the Australian bowling to all parts of the ground as they scored 274 and 140 respectively. The total of 622 for 9 remained SA’s record total until 2003.
In that year, a new high was established at Lords when South Africa declared on 682 for 6 against England. Then, in December, Kingsmead was again the venue for the highest total in the history of tests played in South Africa, with the Proteas posted 658 for 9 declared against the West Indies.
Gary Kirsten wrote his name into the record books at Kingsmead in December 1999 against England when he bettered Graeme Pollock’s 274 and equalled Darryl Cullinan’s South African record test score of 275. That score has since been bettered by Graeme Smith (277 vs England, June 2003) and AB de Villiers (278* vs Pakistan, November 2010)
The ground was also the host of the longest cricket test in history, the fifth test between South Africa and England, from 3 to 14 March 1939. Play took place on 10 days, but the contest ultimately ended in a draw by agreement of the captains when the English team, ironically, ran out of time and had to catch their ship back home.
Kingsmead’s warm weather encourages a casual and relaxed atmosphere as spectators soak up the sun’s rays while taking in top-class action out on the pitch. And if the humidity proves too much, it is easy to pop down to the beach for a quick dip in the ocean and then return for more cricket.
Mr Price King’s Park
Jacko Jackson Road, Durban
Durban’s Kings Park Stadium, after a quiet history as a test venue, enjoyed a rebirth in 1990 when the ground underwent a massive upgrade and the hometown Natal Sharks won the prestigious Currie Cup for the first time.
Between 1891 and 1992 the ground hosted just 12 rugby tests between, beginning in 1962 when South Africa defeated the British Lions 3-0. Since 1992, the ground has played hosted to way more than 12 tests!
It has also been a favoured venue for matches featuring the South African national football side, Bafana Bafana. In fact, it played host to the team’s first international match, a friendly against Cameroon in July 1992, which was won 1-0 by South Africa.
In 2003 it hosted the friendly between England and South Africa that launched the Rainbow Nation’s bid to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Bafana Bafana lost 2-1, but the bid was successful!
In a rich history of many wonderful matches at Kings Park, three two stand out above all others. The first was mentioned above: the democratic South Africa’s introduction to international football against Cameroon in 1992. The other contests involved rugby tests.
The first took place in 1995 when South Africa faced France in atrocious conditions in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup. The game was a cliff-hanger, and only splendid and stubborn Springbok defence earned the home team a nail-biting 19-15 victory.
The second memorable rugby match took place in 1998 when Natal Sharks’ favourite Gary Teichmann led the Boks to the Tri-Nations title with an unbelievable 24-23 win over the All Blacks. South Africa trailed 23-5 with 12 minutes remaining, but they lifted themselves and an ecstatic crowd as they crossed New Zealand’s try line three times to claim a famous victory.
The Moses Mabhida Stadium
Masabala Yengwa Avenue, Durban
Moses Mabhida Stadium
Durban received an impressive new football stadium for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The Moses Mabhida Stadium with its impressive arch became an eye-catching addition to the city’s fine list of sporting facilities.
Situated within walking distance of the Absa Stadium, home to the Sharks and a popular rugby test venue, the Moses Mabhida Stadium had a capacity of 62 760 during the World Cup, but that was reduced to 54 000 afterwards. The stadium has the capacity, however, to accommodate 80 000, if needed. There are 150 corporate hospitality suites with 7 500 seats.
The 106-metre high grand arch is not just a design feature. A cable car takes visitors up to its highest point, where they can get out and enjoy breathtaking, panoramic views of the city and ocean.
The roof is made of Teflon®-coated glass fibre membranes, which produce a translucent glow when the stadium is lit.
Seven Fifa World Cup matches were played at the stadium: five first round games, a second round fixture, and a semi-final.
Since the World Cup, the ground has also hosted a T20 international between South Africa and India and many concerts.
With its spectacular arch and big capacity, it dominates the city’s seaside sporting skykline, including the nearby Absa Stadium.
Sahara Oval Saint George’s
Park Drive, Port Elizabeth
St George’s Park
The Crusaders Ground in Port Elizabeth, commonly referred to as Saint George’s Park, first played host to international cricket in March 1889 when England defeated South Africa by eight wickets in South Africa’s first ever test match.
Saint George’s Park became home to Eastern Province cricket, and some of South Africa’s finest players graced the ground for EP and South Africa, including Bert Vogler, Peter and Graeme Pollock, and Dave Richardson.
As with many other grounds, Saint George’s underwent an upgrade after South Africa returned to international cricket, and today it is a popular venue for both test matches and one-day internationals.
Situated within sight of the ocean, the ground has become well known for the enthusiastic band that plays during test matches. It is a particular favourite of spectators during the summer months, when tests take place in beautiful sunny settings, often accompanied by a cooling breeze, making Saint George’s Park an ideal venue both for fans of the game and for the players themselves.
South Africa has experienced both wonderful success and agonising defeat at the ground. Two matches of more recent vintage that stand out are a painful loss to Australia by two wickets in March 1997 after the Proteas had the Aussies on the rack, having led by 101 runs on the first innings; and a superb win by 9 wickets over India in 1992 as fast bowler Allan Donald claimed 12 for 139 on a pitch that many had said favoured spin bowling and was a fast bowler’s nightmare.
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
North End Lake, Port Elizabeth
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Port Elizabeth, known as “The Friendly City”, received a long overdue new stadium ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™. It now accommodates almost 48 500 spectators.
The stadium, with a striking roof that highlights its design, played host to the playoff for third place during the World Cup, as well as a quarter-final, a second round match, and five first round games.
It has since become home to the Port Elizabeth Sevens, one of the stops on the HSBC World Sevens Series circuit.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is set on the shores of the North End Lake and is the first football-dedicated stadium in the city. It is located north of the city, near the industrial port development of Coega, just two kilometres from the ocean. Thanks to its proximity to the N2 Highway, access to the ground from the city is easy and fast.
Free State Stadium
At Horak Avenue, Bloemfontein
Toyota Free State Cheetahs
The upgraded Free State Stadium was completed before the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup and it played a big role in the event, hosting the eventual winners, Brazil. Bloemfontein’s football supporters are well known for their enthusiastic support and true to form they provided each match with a party atmosphere.
Five first round contests, as well as a second round match were played at the ground in in the Fifa World Cup.
Formerly a 38 000-seater, the ground now hosts almost 41 000 people. Top football and rugby matches are played there. It is home to Bloemfontein Celtic of the Premier Soccer League and the Cheetahs Super 14 and Currie Cup rugby teams.
Free State Stadium is part of what is possibly the finest collection of sports facilities in South Africa. Situated on the same huge block as it are an international standard athletics stadium, the OUTsurance Oval cricket ground – also used for international matches – and tennis facilities that have played host to South African satellite events. Just across the way is a top class class swimming stadium.
The stadium first saw international action in 1955 when the touring British Lions faced the Junior Springboks and edged to a 15-12 victory. It included cycling and athletics tracks around the playing field for many years, but all that changed in 1994 when it was reconstructed ahead of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The result was a beautiful stadium vastly improved on the former design. Spectators were no longer distanced from the action, with seating bordering the field creating a sense of intimacy. The All Blacks, based in Bloemfontein for their World Cup pool matches, certainly enjoyed the new stadium, thrashing a hapless Japanese team 145-17.
The ground has hosted a good number of football internationals played by Bafana Bafana. It was also used during the 1996 African Cup of Nations for a group that included Zambia, Algeria, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.
At Horak Avenue, Bloemfontein
Free State Cricket Union Website
Formerly known as Springbok Park, then Goodyear Park for many years, the ground is now known as the OUTsurance Oval and is a well-designed 20 000-seater. It incorporates two large stands and lots of grassed banks that attract large groups who wish to cook in the sun while enjoying their cricket.
The ground hosted its first one-day international in December 1992 when South Africa cruised to an eight-wicket victory over India. In October 2000 it was accorded full test status when the Proteas defeated Zimbabwe by an innings and 13 runs at the ground.
Goodyear Park played its part in South African test history when, fittingly, it became the ground on which Free State fast bowler Allan Donald became the first South African to capture 300 test wickets, during the first test against New Zealand in November 2000.
One of the greatest innings ever played at the ground occurred early in 1994 when former South African captain Hansie Cronje, playing for Free State, smashed 251 against the touring Australians, hitting 28 fours and six sixes, including three in succession to hurry him along from 200 to 250.
The OUTsurance Oval boasts some of the best lights for night cricket in the country and it is regularly used for day/night internationals, when the grassy banks become colourfully filled with spectators and a carnival atmosphere prevails. It is relaxed and friendly.
Peter Mokaba Stadium
Peter Mokaba Stadium
The Peter Mokaba Stadium is named after an anti-apartheid activist. It is located in Polokwane, the birthplace of Mokaba, in the Limpopo Province and seats almost 42 000 people. It is a mere five kilometres from the city centre.
The design of the stadium is inspired by the iconic Baobab tree. Each corner of the stadium features giant ‘trunk’ structures which accommodate vertical circulation ramps and service cores.
The venue hosted four first round matches during the Fifa World Cup. It has since been used by a number of Premier Soccer League clubs as an alternate venue, including SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs, and Black Leopards.
Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace
The Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace was opened in 1999. Not much work was needed to prepare it to host Fifa World Cup™ matches in 2010.
Five matches took place at the ground: four in the first round and one in the second round.
It is to be found in Rustenburg and is named after the Bafokeng people who live in the area. The Royal Bafokeng people are a rich community, whose wealth is founded on the royalties paid to it by mining companies for access to platinum, ferrochrome, rhodium, and palladium.
The stadium, located 12 kilometres from the Rustenburg city centre, seats 42 000 and is home to Platinum Stars, a Premier Soccer League club in which Royal Bafokeng Sports Holdings owns a majority share.
It is also a 25-minute drive from Sun City and a half-hour drive from the beautiful Pilansberg Mountains.
The Mbombela Stadium, in Nelspruit, seats close to 42 000 people and was especially built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, during which is hosted five first round matches.
It is named after the municipality in which the stadium is found and the name, which comes from one of South Africa’s 11 official languages, Siswati, means “many people together in a small space.”
The stadium is only seven kilometres from the city centre and 12 kilometres from the Kruger-Mpumalanga Airport. It is located in a part of South Africa renowned for its game reserves and wildlife.
The stadium design has wildlife features, with the 18 roof supports resembling giraffes and the seating patterned in zebra stripes.
The stadium was the first top class football venue built in the province of Mpumalanga. Premier Soccer League club Bidvest Wits uses it for some of the team’s home matches.
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