Mbombela Stadium

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Mbombela Stadium
Africa's Wildest Stadium
FIFA World Cup 2010 Italy New Zealand.jpg
Location 1 Bafana Road, Nelspruit
Coordinates 25°27′40″S 30°55′44″E / 25.461°S 30.929°E / -25.461; 30.929Coordinates: 25°27′40″S 30°55′44″E / 25.461°S 30.929°E / -25.461; 30.929
Owner Mbombela Local Municipality
Operator Platinum Sport
Capacity 40,929[1]
Surface Rye grass & Desso GrassMaster
Broke ground February 2007
Opened October 2009
Construction cost Rand 1.05 billion
(US$ 140 million)
Architect R&L Architects
Pumas (Currie Cup) (2010-present)

Mbombela Stadium is a newly built, all-seater, 40,929-seat stadium and was one of the ten venues[2] for the FIFA World Cup 2010. It is located on open land six kilometres west of Nelspruit, South Africa, the capital of the Mpumalanga province.

The stadium has the same name as Nelspruit's new name. In October 2009, Nelspruit was officially renamed Mbombela by the South African government.[3] However, FIFA's 2010 World Cup web site refers to the city as "Nelspruit."

The stadium is the centrepiece of a proposed wider sports precinct with athletics and cricket as well as other sporting codes.

The R1,050-million sports facility was ready for use well ahead of the June 2010 World Cup kickoff. The stadium was made possible through taxpayer funding.


Construction commenced in February 2007 and was completed in November 2009. The construction contract was awarded to a South AfricanFrench consortium of Basil Read Construction and Bouygues Construction.

The structure is founded on 1,500 piles on a 10m structural grid. Each roof support (in the shape of a giraffe) sits on 18 piles on the 30m major structural bay. The 10m span seating beams are prestressed and most of the 3,170 units were pre-cast on site.

The project was subjected to numerous wildcat strikes. With the 5th and final strike, all main contract labourers were dismissed.[4] All subsequent work was performed by subcontractors.

During a freak storm in January 2009, a tower crane blew over and cut through the partially completed roof. The site was unoccupied at the time and there were no injuries.[5] The construction required a total of 5.5 million man-hours to complete.

The site accident history was exceptionally safe with the worst injury being a broken ankle. A record was set of 2.4 million consecutive injury-free hours.


The stadium design reflects its inter-relation with the nearby Kruger National Park. The signature feature of the stadium are the 18 roof supports that resemble giraffes. The seats are patterned with zebra stripes. Visitors to the venue can easily add on a side-trip to the game reserve.


The bowl design aimed to put every seat as close as practical to the field action and maintain excellent sightlines over the heads of spectators. This venue is the most compact arena of all 2010 venues. Most seats are covered by the cantilever roof.

The seating is divided into 3 tiers with 21,000 lower tier, 3,500 middle tier and 19,000 on the upper tier. The upper tier is accessed by 8 wide ramps located on the corners. The ramps accommodates small delivery vehicles. The middle tier, which is accessed by elevators, has premium seating with a VIP lounge, restaurant, club lounges and 25 private boxes.


The pitch is sized for association football(105x68m). It is floodlit to 2,200 lux to meet FIFA requirements. The stadium will be used intensely for training and matches. The cool season rye grass pitch grown from seed is reinforced with Desso GrassMaster artificial turf fibres which anchor the field, creating what is essentially a semi-synthetic pitch for a stable and a level grass surface.

The pitch was the cause of great concern and some ridicule 5 months before the World Cup, but its perfect performance in its first real test on 16 May 2010 silenced the critics.[6]

During the 2013 African Cup of Nations concerns were raised over the playing surface[7] with Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor describing it as "sandy" and "a disgrace". He went on to say "At the end of the day we are all African and we have to be honest with ourselves. It's a beautiful stadium but the pitch is not happening".


The 1,450 tonne roof covers an area of 22,500 square metres and 94% of the seats. The roof is 35m above the pitch. Half of the roof is translucent to maximise sunlight to the pitch and to lighten the seating bowl. The roof appears to float above the top of the seating bowl with a 8m gap to provide ventilation in the hot climate and also to provide views to the surrounding hills from the seats.

The structure is a propped cantilever on a 30m module with the steel towers for the tension rods doubling as symbolic giraffe necks. The floor of the service catwalk is 100mm thick concrete as ballast to resist wind uplift.

Controversies and Corruption[edit]

Allegations of corruption relating to the awarding of construction contracts in the building of the stadium have plagued the project.[8] At least three individuals were murdered in connection with the allegations, and another three have died under mysterious circumstances.[9] Corruption related to the construction resulted in the provincial government taking over the running of the municipality and construction management by placing it under administration in June 2007.[10] When the Mbombela municipality was reinstated 5 months later the outspoken new mayor also received death threats warning him to remain silent about the evidence of corruption.

Lefika Emerging Equity[edit]

In April 2006 Lefika Emerging Equity won the design contract for the stadium. Lefika CEO Chris Grib later left the country in late 2008 under a cloud when it came to light that the SA Revenue Services tax clearance document [1] required to win the design contract was fraudulent.[11] From that point the construction proceeded till completion with Lefika effectively absent.

The Speaker of the council Jimmy Mohlala had been a longstanding and vocal critic of corruption in the province. In late 2008 he started the legal steps to cancel the Lefika design contract because of fraudulent tender documents. He also opened a criminal case against Motaung for a forged Mbombela council letter with a fake signature of former Mbombela municipal manager Sgananda Siboza to obtain a R1 million overdraft from a bank. Shortly after he was murdered outside his home in January 2009.[12] For a more detailed investigative journalistic account read Ziwaphi.[13]

Despite the wrongdoing by Lefika being widely reported they enjoyed political protection by the provincial ANC leadership who failed to respond the powerful evidence against Lefika and blocked legal prosecution against them for 3 years.[14] However the special investigations unit,known as the Hawks, an independent national investigations unit arrested all 3 Lefika directors including soccer Boss Bobby Motaung On 15 August 2012 for tender fraud related to the Stadium design contract.[15] All 3 were released on bail and are to return to court on 15 October 2012. Chris Grib is expected to testify against his co-directors Motaung and Theledi under a plea deal for a lesser sentence as he was out of the country when Jimmy Mohlala was murdered. He was also out of the country when Lefika forged a document on a Municipal letter head used to apply for a R1 million overdraft from Nedbank . Grib was a minority shareholder in Lefika and tasked with day-to-day running of the company. The case was heard but charges later dropped. Reinstatement of charges against the Lefika directors appeared to be driven by behind the scenes politics and manipulation.[16]

In January 2016 the case was re investigated and the reinstatement of charges was being considered by the National Prosecuting Authority [2]

Although this was the stadium that was widely known for corruption it is the stadium held up as the model in terms of total cost. This is borne out by Mbombela being the lowest cost new 2010 stadium by quite a large margin. The worst erroneous spending that has come to light was a R590,000 invoice for a business plan that was inflated to R2.4mill by Lefika and the payment forced through by the municipal manager Jacob Dladla. Dladla was arrested on related charges in October 2012 and released on bail.[17]

Lefika arranged a very expensive sod turning ceremony. Attempts by Lefika to manipulate the awarding of stadium construction sub-contracts were successfully blocked by principled officials within the Municipality and the Project Manager.

Local Community[edit]

Promises of improvements to the impoverished surrounding neighborhood have not been fulfilled.[18] Students from the local primary and high schools had to be relocated to container classrooms and the old schools used by the General Contractor. It took multiple violent protests to get the authorities to finally build the new schools 3 years after they were promised.[19] The land for the stadium was sold for R1 by corrupt community leaders to the Mbombela Local Municipality in exchange for other rights. The sale was set aside 3 years later when the community launched a legal challenge and reinstated with a market related price.[20]


To make way for a replacement school, a wetland in Nelspruit was bulldozed, but no environmental impact assessment was done before the wetland was destroyed.

2010 FIFA World Cup[edit]

Date Time (UTC+2) Team #1 Res. Team #2 Round Attendance
2010-06-16 13.30 Honduras Honduras 0–1 Chile Chile Group H 32,664
2010-06-20 16.00 Italy Italy 1–1 New Zealand New Zealand Group F 38,229
2010-06-23 20.30 Australia Australia 2–1 Serbia Serbia Group D 37,836
2010-06-25 16.00 North Korea Korea DPR 0–3 Ivory Coast Cote d'Ivoire Group G 34,763

2013 African Cup of Nations[edit]

Date Time (UTC+2) Team #1 Res. Team #2 Round Attendance
2013-01-21 17.00 Zambia Zambia 1–1 Ethiopia Ethiopia Group C 15,500
2013-01-21 20.00 Nigeria Nigeria 1–1 Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Group C 13,500
2013-01-25 17.00 Zambia Zambia 1–1 Nigeria Nigeria Group C 25,000
2013-01-25 20.00 Burkina Faso Burkina Faso 4–0 Ethiopia Ethiopia Group C 35,000
2013-01-29 19.00 Zambia Zambia 0–0 Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Group C 8,000
2013-01-30 18.30 Togo Togo 1–1 Tunisia Tunisia Group D 7,500
2013-02-03 18.30 Burkina Faso Burkina Faso 1–0 (aet) Togo Togo Quarter-final 27,000
2013-02-06 18.30 Burkina Faso Burkina Faso 1–1 (3–2 pen.) Ghana Ghana Semi-final 30,000

Football (soccer)[edit]

On 16 May 2010, the stadium was officially opened with an international friendly match between South Africa and Thailand. South Africa won 4–0, leading 3–0 at half time.

The stadium was again used by South Africa when they beat Niger 2–0 on 4 September 2010, in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

On 14 November 2010, the stadium hosted its first Premier Soccer League match. Wits moved their match against Mamelodi Sundowns to the stadium.[21]

Rugby at the Stadium[edit]

The Pumas are the main rugby tenants. They will play all Currie Cup matches at the stadium, while most Vodacom Cup matches will be played at Puma Stadium.[22]

The stadium held its first rugby match on 27 August 2010. The Pumas hosted the Blue Bulls in a 2010 Currie Cup match.[23] Pumas won 22–21, trailing 10–11 at half time.[24]

The Pumas made use of the stadium again, when they hosted Western Province on 17 September 2010. Western Province won the match 62-10.

The country's national team, popularly known as the Springboks, played their first match at the stadium against Scotland on 15 June 2013. This match was the second half of a doubleheader, with the curtain-raiser being a matchup between Samoa and Italy. Both comprised the second round of a one-off four-team tournament that served partly as a warm-up for the Boks' 2013 Rugby Championship campaign.

South Africa will host Wales at the stadium on 21 June 2014 in the second test of Wales' 2014 South African tour.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mbombela Stadium: the stadiums for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa". FIFA.com. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  2. ^ "FIFA.com – A guide to all the stadiums to be used at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa". FIFA.com. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  3. ^ "BusinessDay – Mashatile postpones name changes after ‘technicality’". BusinessDay. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  4. ^ "2010 stadium staff fired". Times LIVE. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2010-05-18. 
  5. ^ "Storm causes crane to collapse: News24: South Africa: News". News24. 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2010-05-18. 
  6. ^ . London http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2...m-south-africa.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  7. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2271322/Africa-Cup-Nations-Emmanuel-Adebayor-calls-Mbombela-Stadium-pitch-Nelspruit-disgrace.html Adebayor tears into Africa Cup of Nations semi-final pitch
  8. ^ Bearak, Barry (2010-03-12). "Cost of Stadium Reveals Tensions in South Africa". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "Scandal of SA's 'giraffe stadium'". BBC News. 2010-06-07. 
  10. ^ 2010 World Cup whistle-blower shot dead
  11. ^ http://mg.co.za/article/2009-01-16-2010-big-shot-skips-sa
  12. ^ http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2012/02/01/who-killed-jimmy-mohlala
  13. ^ http://www.ziwaphi.com/ziwaphi/home.html
  14. ^ http://www.sport24.co.za/Soccer/PSL/Cops-knew-about-Motaung-report-20120819
  15. ^ http://www.iol.co.za/pretoria-news/chiefs-boss-faces-r143m-fraud-rap-1.1365080#.UDEkDt3iZFs
  16. ^ http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Ntlemeza-controls-Motaungs-fate-20150606
  17. ^
  18. ^ "In the squalid shadows of SA stadium". BBC News. 2010-06-07. 
  19. ^ http://www.cup2010.info/w/Nelspruit/Mbombela.html
  20. ^ http://mg.co.za/article/2010-11-19-missing-documents-stall-mbombela-deal
  21. ^ "Wits shift Downs match to Nelspruit". Kickoff.com. 2010-11-05. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  22. ^ http://www.sport24.co.za/Rugby/Pumas-to-play-at-Mbombela-20110126
  23. ^ http://www.lowvelder.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1953:big-guns-clash-at-mbombela-stadium&catid=1:latest-news
  24. ^ http://supersport.com/rugby/currie-cup/news/100827/Pumas_christen_Mbombela_in_style
  25. ^ http://www.sport24.co.za/Rugby/Springboks/Bok-2014-schedule-confirmed-20140305

External links[edit]