Sevens spectacle must move to Cape Town

JON CARDINELLI says the decision to move the South African leg of the IRB Sevens Series to Cape Town is a no-brainer.

According to Die Burger, plans are afoot to move the annual sevens spectacle from Outeniqua Park in George to one of the World Cup stadiums in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth or Rustenberg.

Saru hopes that the South African leg will take on the shine and glamour of the Hong Kong event, and while Outeniqua Park has its charms, it cannot compete with the World Cup venues.

George’s contract to host the tournament expires this year, meaning this weekend’s competition is likely to be the last time the southern Cape city stages the event. Come next year, the world’s best sevens players should be competing in an arena worthy of the occasion, arenas that house at least five times as many people as the 8 000-seater Outeniqua Park.

It’s a no-brainer to move away from George. Moving to a bigger stadium will mean a bigger occasion, with more people filtering through the gates and adding to the spectacle. It also makes sense to stage the event in a more accessible centre, as international visitors need to fly to Cape Town before connecting to George.

So the only decision that remains is whether to move the event to the Cape Town Stadium, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, or the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. These venues were largely successful during the 2010 soccer World Cup, and two of those venues have enjoyed further use.

The Royal Bafokeng Stadium is home to the Platinum Stars while the Eastern Province Kings have taken residence at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The Cape Town Stadium, however, is still struggling to acquire a resident sports side with the Stormers and Western Province refusing to move away from Newlands. Negotiations are ongoing, but for the moment, the magnificent venue in Green Point remains vacant.

These reasons alone won’t be enough to swing the vote, but Cape Town may crack the nod by virtue of their sports-mad fan base.

The crowd numbers at Newlands in the past couple of years have been record-breaking, while the Stormers’ first-ever match at the Cape Town Stadium in February (a warm-up game against Boland) drew a crowd of 40 000. Fifty thousand Capetonians watched Bafana Bafana play USA in November, a fixture that witnessed an unfavourable 1-0 result to the Americans, but was once again an outstanding occasion.

It makes the most commercial sense to pick Cape Town as the host city. Apart from the resident fan base, it’s easily the most popular tourist destination of the three cities lobbying for the event.

Like George, Rustenberg, or more accurately, Phokeng, is not as accessible to international travellers as Cape Town. Tourists from overseas will also need to connect to Port Elizabeth from one of South Africa’s international airports if they want to attend an event at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

If Saru’s aim to is to make the South African leg as successful and as popular as the Hong Kong Sevens, they need to pick a venue as well as a city that is popular with foreign and local fans alike. Saru needs to take the Sevens Series to one of the World Cup stadiums, and they need to take it to the venue situated in one of the world’s favourite cities.

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