Joburg gears for sport bonanza weekend

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Johannesburg - The City of Johurg is gearing for the greatest sporting weekend ever, with four big events taking place in the city within a space of three days.

Soccer, rugby, cricket and tennis will all stage major events that are set to thrill local fans and draw crowds from across the world.

"The city has already proven its ability to host major events...and this weekend will further strengthen this reputation, this is the city's biggest sporting weekend ever," the city said in a statement.

Within the space of 48 hours, Joburg will host:

* the Super-14 Rugby Match between the Highveld Lions and the Canterbury Crusaders,
* the Big Derby soccer match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs,
* two matches in the Indian Premier League Cricket Series and
* the semi-finals and finals of the Soweto Tennis Open for Ladies.

The wild weekend of sport kicks off on Friday evening at Coca Cola Park when the local team, the Highveld Lions takes on the defending champions, the Crusaders from New Zealand.

Starting the season off slowly, the Lions showed signs of recovery last week with a hard-fought victory over the Reds in Brisbane, including four tries by speedy winger, Henno Mentz.

The Crusaders has been the dominant force in Super 14 rugby for the past decade with no less than seven titles since 1998.

With their inspirational All Black captain, Richie McCaw back from injury, the Crusaders will be trying all out to secure a spot in the play-offs.

"When the rugby fans leave Coca Cola Park on Friday evening the soccer organisers will be moving in to get the stadium ready for the biggest event on the local calendar, the Chief-Pirates Derby," according to the city.

No other sports event comes even close to capture the imagination of South African sports fans and Saturday's clash will be no exception.

There will be more than the usual rivalry on display at this weekend's match. As the Absa Premiership season reaches its closing stages barely a point separates these two teams near the top of the table.

A victory for either Pirates or Chiefs will mean that they will move into the coveted second spot on the log.

The much anticipated match will also enable the city to test its state of readiness for the coming Confederations Cup and 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The public is further advised of street closures during these major sporting events. "Streets leading into the Ellis Park precinct will be closed off from 8am in the morning and only emergency and VIP vehicles will be allowed access," the city said.

Park-and-ride facilities will be available at strategic venues across the city and buses will ferry fans to and from the game.

The IPL Cricket circus will hit Johannesburg with a force on the weekend with two matches being played at the Wanderers with the world's top cricketers in action in the exciting new 20/20 format.

On Saturday, the unbeaten, Delhi Daredevils, take on last year's runner-up, the Chennai Super Kings with Sri Lankan spin wizard, Muttiah Muralitharan and big-hitting local star, Albie Morkel, in its line-up.

The Daredevils, are however the form team of the tournament, led by AB de Villiers, who, last week became the first player to score a century in this competition.

On Sunday, the Royal Challengers Bangalore will challenge the Mumbai Indians led by the world's greatest batsman, Sachin Tendulkar.

With controversial English player, Kevin Pietersen and Proteas' speed merchant Dale Steyn on their side, the Challengers will provide a great test for Tendulkar's side which also includes local batting hero, Jean-Paul Duminy.

While the big men flex their muscles on the soccer, rugby and cricket fields, the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Soweto will play host to the elegant ladies of the professional tennis circuit.

The highly successful Soweto Men's Open was completed last week and this week it is the turn of the ladies.

The big sport of the weekend is an appetizer for what Joburgers will experience in the next 15 months. First the Confederations Cup in June and then the 2010 Soccer World Cup a year later.

Already Johannesburg is known across the world as a premier destination for tourists, businessmen and convention goers. Now sports fans are added to the list of people who want to visit the World Class, African City.