Ellis Park pitch repaired ahead of derby

Date published: April 12 2016

The Ellis Park pitch in Johannesburg has undergone repairs ahead of the Lions' derby clash with the Stormers at the venue on Saturday.

The pitch has been in a poor state throughout the Super Rugby season but it was at its worst during the Lions' defeat to the Crusaders in Round Six when both front rows battled with the underfoot conditions at scrum time. 

The turf was particularly bad in the Lions' 37-43 loss to the Crusaders two weekends ago, where the front rows of both sides regularly lost their footing at scrum time.

The Lions explained via a press release that the Ellis Park turf has capitulated due to the ‘El Nino’ effect, which has proven to have an even more devastating effect in 2016 with weather systems being adversely impacted around the world and also in South Africa, where maize output has dropped by 30 percent.

It has now also directly impacted on the current state of the pitch at Ellis Park, which has seen break-up during scrummaging, rucks and malls since the first home Super Rugby game against the Cheetahs on March 19.

"The El Nino effect has restricted grass growth and poor root establishment at the park," explains Mike Erasmus, Ellis Park's stadium manager.

In the game against the Crusaders two percent of the playing surface was breaking up due to high temperatures in the week leading up to the game. As a result corrective steps had to be taken this week leading up to the Super Rugby match against the Stormers. 

Johan van Vuuren, the pitch expert at Ellis Park and one of the leaders on pitch management in South Africa, headed up the corrective action project.

“This had to be done to ensure the safety of the players and to restrict injuries," added Erasmus.

"We had to take these precautionary measures and while it will take three weeks to recover, the pitch will be ready for all the forthcoming fixtures including the Test in June."