Wolfson suitable home for Kings
Township streets will take visitors out of their comfort zone and stadium can become happy hunting ground for local team, say rugby fans
If the Isuzu Southern Kings are still hunting for a venue they can call their home before the new PRO14 season kicks off, the atmospheric Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele could be the answer.
A man who knows all about playing at intimidating rugby stadiums around the world is long-time Kings prop Schalk Ferreira.
One could not help but recall his comments on the Wolfson Stadium this week after EP manager Thando Manana said he wanted to turn the venue into a “house of pain” for visitors.
Ferreira feels European PRO14 teams must be lifted out of their comfort zone and taken to the township streets when they play matches in PE
The burly prop was talking after the Kings were beaten 4336 in a pulsating showdown in front of a lively crowd of 2,836 fans at Kwazakhele’s compact Wolfson Stadium in 2017.
“It was really good playing at the Wolfson Stadium,” Ferreira said.
“When the Kings go and play in Europe we go to places like Connacht in Ireland where the conditions, to be honest, are horrible. We will give them some of their same music here.
“This is our comfort zone and we will take them to the streets and bring them to the township and put them out of their comfort zone.”
The Kings have made it clear they would like to return to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium from their current base at the Madibaz Stadium.
In 2018 bosses of the Kings and the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) clashed over the signing of a new agreement, which resulted in the Kings moving to the Madibaz Stadium.
Manana believes Kwazakhele could prove a happy hunting ground for the Kings if they cannot get back on the lush NMB Stadium turf.
After watching the Elephants charge to two emphatic SuperSport Rugby Challenge wins at Wolfson, Manana wants to turn the stadium into a “house of pain” for visiting teams.
After playing their first game of the season at NMB Stadium last season, the Kings surprisingly relocated to the Madibaz Stadium on the edge of town.
This resulted in sparse crowds turning up to watch the Kings play. The attendance of only 1,142 that watched the Kings face champions Leinster in November was the lowest in the history of PRO14.
Despite its superb facilities, the campus is out of reach for many fans who want to watch their team play in the Guinness PRO14.
“If you look at the Madibaz Stadium where the Kings play their PRO14 matches it is on the edge of Port Elizabeth,” Manana said.
“I would, however, not like to comment on the strategy of the new business consortium who own the Kings about where they play their matches.
“EP want to take rugby to the people where the masses are and put bums on seats. There are a lot of rugby fans who live around the Wolfson and it is easily accessible.
“This ground has given the Elephants a lot of energy and the players have a freedom to express themselves.”
EP Rugby president Andre Rademan said there had been a fantastic atmosphere inside the stadium for EP games.
“We are taking the game to the people and to grass roots. You could see the fans enjoyed the rugby and they rallied behind the team. This encourages the team to do even better.”
When the new owners launched the new era for franchise, the consortium chair addressed the question of a home ground.
“There is the question of getting back to the stadium as our home ground,” Loyiso Dotwana said.
“We would certainly love to do that because it is our preferred home.
“Commercial negotiations are under way right now and we are hoping that they will be completed soon. But I must emphasise that this must be a point where it results in a financially viable contracting model for the franchise.”
After their dismal run of results, the Kings must maximise every advantage when they play at home.
Taking visitors out of their comfort zone would be a step in the right direction.