Dan Retief

Cape Town Stadium not all its cracked up to be

Posted in Home, Retief on Rugby by Dan Retief on 12 Dec 2016
Categories: Home, Retief on Rugby

But for Tom Mitchell’s England spoiling the Blitzbokke’s party it would have been the perfect weekend for Sevens rugby and Cape Town.

Beautiful city, lovely stadium, perfect weather, happy people and picture postcards of the mountain and shimmering Table Bay to beam to television sets all over the world.

You can’t but agree that the Cape Town leg of the HSBC Sevens series was a massive success and inevitably the call has gone up for the Springboks and XVs test matches to be moved to the glowing Chinese lantern by the sea.

This would also mean a move for Western Province and the Stormers from their hallowed old Newlands stadium.

Media commentators, at odds with many Newlands traditionalists and old-timers, seem to think it is a no-brainer to abandon the Old Lady of Boundary Road and move “around the corner” to Green Point.

It certainly makes logical sense. The Cape Town Stadium is bigger, it is newer, it is cleaner and has better facilities, AND it has staged two vibrant Sevens tournaments to show just what a perfect setting it would be for test match rugby.

But let’s hold our horses.

And I include myself because 18 months ago I wrote a column suggesting it was time to bid Newlands farewell – describing the rickety old stadium which has not been well cared for over the last couple of years as a “patched-up old battle ship, perhaps beyond repair and headed for the wreckers yard.”

Having attended the Sevens I found Cape Town Stadium is not all it is cracked up to be and the oh-so-smug City Council needs to learn a thing or two about staging a big event – of which, unlike now, there will be many if rugby does set up camp, quite fittingly, alongside the country’s oldest club Hamiltons.

Astonishingly the City Council scheduled road works on the highways into the city, causing massive back-ups and delays, and not enough was done to hasten the Sevens flow through the central city.

If there were shuttles I did not spot them and if there were special “rugby trains” from bigger centres I was not aware of them.

Then there was the actual spectating experience. Unlike all modern sports structures where the playing area is well below the bottom rows of seats a large proportion of the seats in the CT Stadium are pretty much level with the field.

This means sight lines are limited and invariably obliterated when people in front of you jump up, as they do, to see the action.

My seat was right opposite one of the corner flags which meant I had a clear view of only about 20% of the field. I could not really see the far corner and play beyond the halfway line on the other side of the field was undistinguishable – just little figures running around.

I did not see one of the tries scored on that side of the field and in XVs it would have been impossible to make out what was going on in key areas such as the scrum, lineouts and rucks & mauls. People sitting further back from me also complained of disappointing viewing.

Another clear drawback is that the playing area is slightly too small for an international rugby field; making for very small in-goal areas and hard barriers too close to where the players are going at it.

In fact, right in front of us, Seabelo Senatla nearly came a nasty cropper after speeding in for a try and having to take rapid evasive action to avoid crashing into the fence.

Sevens too is different from XVs where the complex unfolding of the game is the centre of attraction rather than the spectacle of occasion.

Sevens is made for the SAGs (Short Attention-Span Generation) while XVs is for the connoisseur. I was amazed how little attention was paid to the actual games, other than when the Blitzbokke made one of their six appearances on the field, and once again how different the mini game looks live compared to on television.

On television it is pared down and focussed; in the stadium it has the feel of kids playing in the park.

Another drawback of CT Stadium is that there are not nearly enough suites – the luxury cubicles for the pampered few which irritate dyed-in-the-wool fans but which provide underpinning corporate finance for big stadiums.

I did notice, though, a large blot of reserved seats (I estimated at least 1 500) in a prime spot on the far side, clearly for dignitaries and guests, which remained largely unoccupied – something which clearly cannot be allowed if, for instance, the Springboks were playing the All Blacks.

Don’t get me wrong. The Cape Town Sevens is a wonderful event that has found a place in the hearts of the people and is a showcase for the city but the stadium, built in a hurry and probably in the wrong place for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, is not right up there.

A lot of work will have to be done by the council, the rugby unions and, oh yes, new kids on the block Cape Town City Football Club before it will be a truly world-class team sports venue.

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6 Responses to “Cape Town Stadium not all its cracked up to be”

  1. David Mortimer

    Hi Dan, even though there are negatives to the stadium and the traffic around the stadium which I have experienced before with roads being closed, I will have to be there next year. The vibe in the stadium looked absolutely amazing on TV and I must share this experience by being part of it. Will be down there next year for sure.

    9:36 am on 12/13/16
  2. Gus. Clarke

    Hey Dan, Hope you are well.
    There are a number of oversights ‘re CT stadium, and you highlighted most of them. A big one is the lack of a train service which can deliver and collect 2000 passengers at a time. Surely it would have been easy to have created a rail link from Cape Town station, via Waterfront.
    Also the extremes of Sun brightness levels plays havoc with TV viewing. Simple shade clothing across the stadium would assist this.

    Your thoughts.


    12:50 pm on 12/14/16
  3. Etienne Louw

    I have been a season ticket holder at Newlands since 1976. My sons came out from the USA to visit, so I went to Computicket to buy 8 tickets for the first test against Ireland in June. It was the first day that tickets were available, and the computer allocated me “the best available” which were in the top row of the Railway Stand. After paying about R6,000, I arrived to find the seats had sticky spilt beer all over them. The sight line under the roof enables you to just see the opposite touchline. A hoisted kick can’t be seen, nor can jumpers in a line out! The toilets are covered in stale urine, and a tree and branches covers half the stairs over the railway line as you leave with a crush of humanity trying to exit the horrific venue. My sons left at halftime.

    The venue is shocking! Nostalgia is not a suitable reason to maintain a dilapidated ground. Mind you, the rubbish that the Boks delivered that day where they couldn’t beat a 14 man outfit that was reduced to 13 men for 10 minutes made me think they don’t deserve anything better! Western Province and South African rugby officials are a disgrace. Craven and Pickard must be spinning in their graves! So the ineptness continues with a stadium that can’t even fit a standard rugby field!

    5:14 pm on 12/15/16
  4. Dan Retief

    No doubting it is all the fun in the park Dave – Cape Town’s biggest party.

    4:42 pm on 12/16/16
  5. Dan Retief

    Hi Gus, apparently the ideal site for the stadium was land in the railway shunting yards near the docks – however the head-banging that went on before FIFA 2010 and subsequent rush to get it up meant the site of the old Green Point Stadium was used. Must say I was surprised to find the playing area was too small to properly fit a rugby test match pitch… football doesn’t have an in-goal area and the players are not as prone to crashing into the side barriers! A rail service from the city is an absolute must. Cape Town needs a top-class stadium and one would like to think rugby, soccer and the City Council will bury their egos and develop a plan to make the one they’re now stuck with as good as can be.

    4:48 pm on 12/16/16
  6. Dan Retief

    Don’t remind me Ett! I ended up on your long-standing season seats which were much better. I know you wrote to the WPRFU. Did you ever get a reply?

    4:49 pm on 12/16/16