The stadium fields of Cape Town Stadium and Loftus Versfeld Stadium have been converted from natural turf to hybrid. The upgrade allows the stadium operators to host more events in the venues once used for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Both stadiums are currently used for both football and rugby games for the highest leagues. In addition, the Cape Town Stadium in particular hosts a variety of other events, including concerts and religious gatherings.
Obie Oberholzer of Keep it Green explained on a podcast of football club Mamelodi Sundowns the works they have done to upgrade the pitch of Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
“We scraped the whole playing surface and resurfaced it with silica sand and not soil like the old one was. We put in a new drainage and irrigation system before getting a GrassMax (machine) in to do the artificial grass hybrid stitching.
“The old soil had clay in it and you would have had a problem with growth and the drainage system. Clay is not needed in a sports facility, whereas if you use silica sand, the drainage is better and the evenness is better. Within 25 minutes of a heavy downpour, you should be able to play again.”
Supports passing game
Mamelodi Sundowns Sporting Director Flemming Berg explained how it would suit their passing game.
“We always try to raise the bar on all aspects of the game when it comes to pitches, players and recruitment and our playing style,” he said.
“We play a passing game with build-ups from the back. We average 650 and 700 passes per game and we are by far a team in the league with the most passes. So a strong playing surface is very important for our type of play.”
The club won the six consecutive league titles and is also a strong contender in the African Champions League.
“What it is also important for is fewer injuries because it is more stable and more subtle and the players will be able to come out of these situations where a pitch is either not even or firm,” Berg added.
For Cape Town Stadium, reinforcing the pitch became inevitable after the recent movement of the Western Cape Rugby Union to the venue. As of this season, Cape Town Stadium will host matches in both the rugby and football leagues, following the decision by the WCRU to abandon its historic Newlands Stadium in favour of the more modern Cape Town Stadium that was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The upgrade to a hybrid pitch means the first renovation of the field that was installed for the 2010 event.
The stadium, also known as the DHL-stadium following a commercial decision to sell the naming rights, is already the home venue for football club Cape Town City FC.
Not new in RSA
Hybrid pitches are not new to South Africa. Weeks before the kick-off of the 2010 football spectacle, the local organising committee urgently requested Grassmaster, the sole hybrid pitch solution available at the time, to reinforce the fields of the stadiums in Polokwane and Mbombela.
Due to a delay in the construction of the venues, the fields had insufficient time to grow and settle before the start of the winter during which the tournament was played.
Some of the people who helped out in 2010 have moved on to GrassMax. The opportunity to reinforce the stadium fields of another two venues used for the FIFA tournament felt like a reunion with some long-lost friends.