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Newlands Springboks vs All Blacks Test in the balance

Springboks
CAPE TOWN – Newlands could lose a proposed Springbok Test against the All Blacks later this year if the stadium owners are unable to produce a safety certificate.

The grand old ground last had major renovations done in the build-up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup but has seen few changes since. Newlands last hosted the All Blacks in 2008, when the Boks lost 19-0 in a match where fullback Percy Montgomery became the first South African to earn 100 Test caps.

But it is understood that SA Rugby have been reluctant to take the national team back to Newlands to take on New Zealand due to the “Cape Crusaders” phenomenon, which has seen overwhelming local support for the All Blacks against the Boks.

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Newlands Stadium. Photo: Greg Beadle

This has previously led to some unsavoury incidents in the stands. SA Rugby’s stance has apparently softened in that regard to the extent that Cape Town has been pencilled in for this year’s home Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks.

However, there is a chance that Newlands may be overlooked for Cape Town Stadium. Sunday newspaper Rapport quoted SA Rugby president Mark Alexander as saying that the Western Province Rugby Union have until June to submit a Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Regulations safety clearance, which was signed into law in 2011.

Recent reports have raised safety issues, such as narrow walkways throughout Newlands stadium and inadequate exits that impact on the time it takes to evacuate the ground.

Newlands didn’t host any matches during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and as a result didn’t receive any structural upgrades, which may see the stadium miss out on staging any 2023 Rugby World Cup games if South Africa’s bid is successful.

With regards to the All Black Test this year, Alexander said about the safety certificate: “I don’t think there will be a problem, but if there is, we will move the Test somewhere else.

“That’s the law of the land. If you don’t have the (certificate), then we can’t host the Test there. They have a deadline – the Test is in October, and they have to meet that deadline (in June). They must just deliver the certificate, that’s all. Safety comes first, and we can’t go against the government’s regulations.”

The City of Cape Town has been trying to convince the WP Rugby Union to move to the Cape Town Stadium and play Stormers and Province matches there, but WP have refused to do so due to a number of factors, with a lack of adequate corporate suites being one of the major stumbling blocks.

Alexander said that WP have indicated that they want the All Black Test to be played at Newlands and that Cape Town Stadium has not been discussed as an alternative venue.

WP Rugby CEO Paul Zacks told Rapport that the union are in communication with SA Rugby to resolve the certificate issue.

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