Lions record safe despite Soccer City switch

South African rugby will break new ground next month when they meet arch-rivals New Zealand in a Tri Nations game at the same Soccer City ground that will host this weekend's football World Cup final. [more]

Lions record safe despite Soccer City switch

South African rugby will break new ground next month when they meet arch-rivals New Zealand in a Tri Nations game at the same Soccer City ground that will host this weekend’s football World Cup final.

But even if the reigning world champions and Tri Nations title holders manage to fill South Africa’s Soweto-based National Stadium to its 88,791 capacity, that gate will still fall short of the estimated 95,000 who poured into Johannesburg’s Ellis Park to see the first Test between the Springboks and the British & Irish Lions in 1955.

That epic contest on 6 August 55 years ago ended with a famous victory for Robin Thompson’s Lions tourists by 23-22. They went on to share the series with the Springboks 2-2.

The game against the All Blacks will be the start of Peter de Villiers’ home leg of their Tri Nations defence. It is a move, agreed between SARU and the Golden Lions Rugby Union, that will create significant landmarks:

“This is an historic day and one in which the whole of South Africa can celebrate,” said SARU president, Oregan Hoskins.

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“Taking the Springboks to what is already an iconic world venue gives our players and supporters the best stage on which to enjoy rugby. But it also allows us to continue the nation building through sport that we have enjoyed throughout the FIFA World Cup.”

The game could well be the 100th cap for the Springbok captain John Smit, who is all set to lead his side into their title defence this weekend against the All Blacks in Auckland.

Springboks v Lions, 6 August 1955

South Africa 22, British Lions 23
HT: 11-8 Att: est 95,000
South Africa: J van der Schyff; T Briers, D Sinclair, T van Vollenhoven, S Swart; C Ulyate, T Gentles; C Koch, C Kroon, A du Plooy, S du Rand, J Claassen, S Fry (captain), B van Wyk, D Retief
Scorers: Tries: T Briers 2, S Swart; Cons: J van der Schyff 2; Pens: J van der Schyff 2
 
British & Irish Lions: A Cameron; T O'Reilly, J Butterfield, P Davies, C Pedlow; C Morgan, D Jeeps; W Williams, B Meredith, C Meredith, R Williams, R Thompson (captain), R Higgins, J Greenwood, R Robins
Scorers: Tries: T O'Reilly, C Pedlow, J Greenwood, J Butterfield, C Morgan; Cons: A Cameron 4
 
Referee: Ralph Burmeister (South Africa)

National Stadium Factfile

Built: 1987
Upgraded: 2009
Inauguration match: Bidvest Wits vs Amazulu (May 22, 2010) Nedbank Cup Final
Cost of upgrade: R3.5bn
Capacity: 88,791
Record attendance: 84,617 Ghana vs Germany (June 23, 2010)

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