The Springboks will play Argentina on Saturday, August 17 at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg as part of the Nelson Mandela Sports Day, it was announced on Thursday morning.
The Springboks’ opening Test in The Castle Lager Rugby Championship will move from the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, to the fringes of Soweto to form part of a unique initiative spearheaded by the national departments of Sport and Recreation South Africa and Arts & Culture, which aims to honour the legacy of Madiba.
The Test match forms part of a bonanza sports programme which will include a friendly soccer international between Bafana Bafana and Burkina Faso on the same field, a music concert and other cultural activities.
The Castle Lager Rugby Championship match will kick off at 17h00 with Bafana Bafana taking the field at 13h30 in a packed programme of events to honour the former President.
Tickets for the day – which concludes with a music festival following the Springbok Test – are priced from R220 and will go on sale through Computicket outlets on Monday.
Mr Oregan Hoskins, SARU President, Heyneke Meyer (Springbok coach), Jean de Villiers (Springbok captain) and several other Springboks were present at the announcement of the event in Sandton.
Mr Hoskins praised the efforts of the Sports Minister to honour Madiba and said rugby was extremely glad to be part of such a unique initiative.
“On behalf of SARU and the rugby fraternity I want to congratulate the Sports Minister and the Department of Arts and Culture for launching this unique sports event,” said Mr Hoskins.
“I cannot think of a better way for us as sports people, to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela. By putting two of South Africa’s most popular sports, with contrasting cultural heritages, onto the same field on the same day we hope to recapture the ‘Spirit of 2010′ when the Bulls took Vodacom Super Rugby to Orlando Stadium to such amazing effect.
“Madiba is an inspiration for so many people around the world, not only in South Africa. SARU and the Springboks are extremely honoured to be involved in a programme that will honour his legacy.
“Rugby salutes you, Tata Madiba, and today I re-dedicate our game to living the values you so nobly portray – the values of tolerance, of inclusiveness and of nation-building,” added Hoskins.
SANZAR has been kept fully informed of the planned venue change: “SANZAR is supportive of the forthcoming Nelson Mandela Sports Day and believe it will prove a momentous occasion for the Republic of South Africa,” said Greg Peters, SANZAR CEO.
“We sincerely thank the South African Government and South African Rugby Union for maintaining open channels of communication and ensuring all stakeholders remained informed throughout the planning process.
“SANZAR is also appreciative of the Free State Rugby Union and the people of Bloemfontein for being so accommodating to the venue change that sees the South Africa v Argentina Test moved to Johannesburg and trust the whole nation will support the initiative as the Springboks and Bafana Bafana line up in a unique double header to celebrate a widely-revered and much-loved icon.”
Argentine Rugby Union President, Mr Luis Castillo, said the Pumas were glad to play their part in the event.
“We are very proud to be able to take part in a very special day like this to honour Nelson Mandela,” said Mr Castillo.
“In 2008 we also played in a special Test to commemorate his 90th birthday in Johannesburg and it will be a privilege for us to honour him in this way, in the next game between the Pumas and our South Africans brothers.”
In a joint statement from Mr Lindsay Mould and Harold Verster, respectively president and CEO of the Cheetahs, they also expressed their support for the initiative: “Free State Rugby supports the initiative to move the Springbok Test to the FNB Stadium and see this as a matter of national interest and has agreed to do this in honour of former president Nelson Mandela.
“Free State Rugby regret that the move will negatively affect their supporters, season ticket holders, suite holders and other interest groups, but we trust that that everyone will have an understanding that this is done in national interest and to honour Mr. Nelson Mandela in this special way.”
During the announcement event on Thursday morning, which was televised live to millions of South Africans, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula also honoured Springbok wing Bryan Habana for becoming the first South African player to score 50 Test match tries.