Painting Soweto blue

2010-05-22 00:00

TODAY will see sporting boundaries momentarily, but historically, blurred as the Bulls travel to Soweto’s Orlando Stadium for a Super 14 semi-final against the Crusaders.

It will be the first major rugby match played in the football- crazed township, and it will take place at the very stadium that was to be the venue for the 1976 Sowetan students’ uprising protests.

Now, 34 years later, it will be the Bulls and their many fans making their way to the Orlando Stadium. The 50 000-seater stadium is sold out and the Bulls captain, Victor Matfield, is relishing the opportunity to play in front of what he believes will be a “mini-Loftus”.

“This game is great for our country, and it is great that rugby comes to Soweto,” said Matfield.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called the Bulls’ decision to play in Soweto “the most important development in the sport since the Springboks won the World Cup in 1995”.

The Bulls are unable to play the match at their Pretoria home ground, Loftus Versveld, as it is currently being prepared as a venue for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Loftus is considered by many to be the home of South African rugby, but it must now primarily focus itself on being an international football venue.

In much the same fashion, the Orlando Stadium must shift its attention to accommodating a world-class rugby match, or two.

The decision to play the game at Orlando Stadium was treated with mixed reactions initially, with fans expressing concern about crime and safety in the Johannesburg township. Fortunately, this scepticism has taken a back seat to the sense of occasion, as tickets to the match were sold out in a matter of hours.

The Super 14 semi-final is not the only historic event in Soweto today. With the opening of World Cup venue Soccer City, today has the potential to be a sporting day that unites a nation.

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