SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore’s new National Stadium suffered fresh embarrassment Tuesday when the Maori All Blacks scrapped their November 15 match against Asia Pacific Dragons over the poor state of its pitch.
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) officials said they felt “let down” over the situation, which could affect Singapore’s bid to host a team in the Super 15 southern hemisphere competition.
The below-par pitch has already attracted negative comments from visiting football teams including Brazil, whose coach Dunga complained “most of it is sand” and that it could injure his players.
“We feel let down that this happened at this late stage,” NZRU general manager for planning and operations Nigel Cass said in a statement sent to AFP.
“However, the safety of our players is paramount and we were unable to get the assurance we needed that the pitch was playable.”
There was no immediate comment from officials at Singapore’s Sports Hub, a Sg$1.3 billion (US$1 billion) multi-venue complex whose centrepiece is the roofed, 55,000-seat National Stadium.
Singapore’s sports governing body has already threatened to withhold funding over the state of the pitch, much of which was covered with sand during Brazil’s 4-0 friendly win last week over Japan.
Rugby markings and the positions of the rugby posts were clearly visible, while the bouncing ball kicked up small clouds of sand during the game featuring superstars Neymar and Kaka.
The cancellation comes as southern hemisphere rugby officials deliberate whether to award a Super 15 franchise to Singapore or Japan, hosts of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The Asean Football Federation is also contemplating moving matches away from the National Stadium for Singapore’s co-hosting of the Suzuki Cup, starting next month.
A November 8 concert by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou at the stadium has been shifted to December 27 to give the grass a chance to grow before the Suzuki Cup, where Singapore are defending champions.
The pitch combines synthetic and natural grass to improve durability. The Asia Pacific Dragons is an invitational side drawn from Asian and Polynesian players.