‘Corrective action’ for Ellis Park pitch

The Golden Lions Rugby Union says the El Nino effect is to blame for the poor state of the Ellis Park pitch.

El Nino causes a warming in sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, and can lead to unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere. This year, weather systems have been adversely impacted around the world, including South Africa where maize output has dropped by 30%.

The Ellis Park pitch has seen break-up during scrummaging, rucks and mauls this season.

This pitch is a sand-based growing medium to provide adequate drainage and good playing conditions during wet weather. Constructed in 1996, it is based on a two-grass system where a warm-season grass is used in the summer and cool-season grass in winter to provide a deep root system all year round.

'The El Nino effect has restricted grass growth and poor root establishment at the park,' explained stadium manager Mike Erasmus.

Two percent of the playing surface broke up during the Lions' match against the Crusaders on 1 April 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 Saturday's 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,' he said. '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.'

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