Famous SA stadium may miss grand farewell

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Athletic Park, atop a hill between Island Bay and Newtown and a veritable magnet for the slightest of breezes, saw the last of its 42 Test matches in 1999 when replaced by SKY Stadium on the Wellington waterfront.

 

Carisbrook, a chilling ground when the wind blew down Otago harbour, and a bog when heavy rain resulted in the surface being chewed up, bid farewell to its 38-match connection with Test rugby in 2011 when it hosted the All Blacks and Fiji, a fund-raising game for the Christchurch earthquake, won by the All Blacks 60-14.

 

Lancaster Park, and the many sponsored names it bore in its latter years, hosted the last of its 48 Tests in 2010 when beating Australia, believe it or not, 20-10. In 2011, the Christchurch earthquake so damaged the stadium that it was eventually demolished with rugby moving to a temporary stadium in Addington.

 

Now, South Africa is set to bid farewell to its venerable Newlands rugby ground, the oldest of its Test venues, but without a suitable farewell in the wake of the coronavirus interruptions to Investec Super Rugby.

 

Newlands, which opened in 1890, hosted the first of its 56 Test matches, against the touring Great Britain team, in 1891. Rugby is set to move to Cape Town Stadium from next year.

 

It is a ground where many famous Springbok-All Blacks Tests have been played and where the New Zealanders enjoyed memorable support from local blacks and coloured fans.

 

But perhaps the greatest game the All Blacks played was the 1995 World Cup semifinal against England when Jonah Lomu confirmed his arrival on the world rugby scene with a four-try haul in the 45-29 win.

 

It had been intended its last Test would be on July 4 when the World Cup winners play their first Test against Scotland.

 

Whether that July window of international matches will be played is out of rugby's hands.

 

And if the Investec Rugby Championship is played, Cape Town was not on the venue list for South Africa's home games that are against Argentina in Johannesburg on August 8, Australia at Pretoria on September 19 and the All Blacks at Mbombela Stadium at Nelspruit on September 26.

 

There were hopes that an improved Stormers effort in Super Rugby would result in at least a playoff game being played at the ground but consecutive losses before the abandonment of the competition made that prospect less likely, although only seven rounds into the competition. Those losses, however, were compounded by injuries to several of the Stormers' Springboks.

 

The way the pandemic is shaping, it may be that the honour of the final game will rest with the Western Province side in the Currie Cup, possibly staging a final to acknowledge the ground's demise.

 

 

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