The biggest challenge in the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day at the FNB Stadium on Saturday might well take place as Bafana troop back into their dressing room while the Springboks expend nervous energy in theirs.
In a unique event in international sport, the national soccer and rugby sides will be in action on the same field within minutes of each other.
Early in the afternoon, Bafana will take on Burkina Faso and later the Springboks will be up against Argentina in their first match of this year’s Rugby Championship.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the organisers is to convert the football field into a rugby field in a very short time.
Although the actual playing enclosures of the two sports are similar – with a mean length of 100m and a width of 70m – there are other distinct differences, not the least the white poles that serve as targets in the two games.
Soccer has a net with dimensions of 7.32m x 2.44m, while rugby’s H-shaped posts have to be 5.6m apart, with the crossbar 3m off the ground and the uprights a minimum height of 6.4m.
In addition, a soccer field is marked with a centre-field circle, and goal and penalty areas, while a rugby field has additional 22m lines, 10m dotted lines, and dotted lines to indicate the 5m and 15m demarcations of the line-outs, as well as 5m from the try line.
The man charged with making the quick change is Andre Homan, commercial manager of the FNB Stadium’s operators, Stadium Management SA.
“The key problem was taking away the soccer nets and putting up the rugby posts,” said Homan, “especially when you consider that just one of the extra-long rugby poles that have been used at the FNB Stadium weighs 800kg.
“We put our heads together with Safa and Saru, and the first problem was solved by deciding to have the outer lines of the playing field at 100m x 68m – so we didn’t end up with a double dead-ball or goal line and to ensure that the posts could be put up on the same line.
“The soccer nets are easily portable, and for the rugby posts we solved the problem by having aluminium poles made that are thinner and can be fitted into smaller sleeves that are already embedded in the field.”
Homan said his team had staged practise runs, “and in our last run we got the poles up in seven minutes”.
The problem of the different lines will be solved by applying the respective markings lightly ahead of both games.
“Once the soccer match is over, my team will be ready to move in with green dye to obliterate the soccer markings, such as the circle, and whiten the dotted lines that are unique to rugby,” he said.
The programme for the day includes a soccer match between South African and Italians legends at 10.30am, followed by the football international at 1.30pm, the rugby test at 5pm and a music concert featuring Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Mali’s Salif Keita, Black Coffee, DJ Antonio and Toya DeLazy at 7pm.
Tickets, ranging from R220 to R550, are available from Computicket. Run by the departments of sport and recreation and arts and culture, proceeds from the event will go to towards the building of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.
Will he pick Fourie?
That is the question Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will answer on Wednesday when he names his team to take on Argentina at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Recalling Du Preez from the Suntory Club in Japan, where he has been playing since his last game for the Springboks in the quarterfinal of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011, came as a shock when Meyer named his squad, who spent last week training in Johannesburg.
The scrum half was the kingpin in Meyer’s style of rugby that won the Bulls three Super Rugby titles, and bringing him back from the backwoods of a minor and much less intense rugby environment was a clear signal that the coach wants Du Preez to imprint his desired pattern.
But there are doubts whether Du Preez is fit and strong enough to cope with the rough and tumble of a test match.
It is a self-created dilemma that Meyer may regret.
Du Preez is apparently not available for all the Rugby Championship tests, so if he is going to be handed the No 9 jersey, the time would appear to be now.
Although only 21 of the 30 players called up by Meyer were part of the week of preparation because of the commitment of the other nine to foreign clubs, all the players on the list are available for selection.
Apart from Du Preez, Meyer is likely to remain true to the core of players who won all three tests in June against Italy, Scotland and Samoa.
He is known to be keen to restore No 8 Duane Vermeulen to the starting line-up, but the Stormers loose forward has only just returned from a long-term injury, so it might be too much of a risk to have questions over both players in the crucial 8-9 cusp.
The Rugby Championship kicks off on Saturday afternoon, with the champion All Blacks up against the Wallabies in Sydney (kickoff at 12.05pm).
The Springboks and the Pumas get down to it at 5pm.
On Sunday the Boks and the Argentinians will catch a flight to Buenos Aires, en route to their next match in Mendoza on August 24 (kickoff at 9.10pm).
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