During the 1920s the Pretoria Sub-union had not foreseen the growing need for fields, but in the first part of that decade, the Sub-union, in co-operation with the Municipality, systematically put their existing rugby fields under kikuyu.
University and Boys’ High followed their example in 1923, so that there were seven grass fields available in that year.
The Railway Institute field at Berea Park was similarly grassed in 1924. At the end of 1928 there were ten grass fields in Pretoria.
The Pretoria Sub-union also wished to improve the facilities at the Eastern Sports Ground. In 1923 the City Council commenced the building of a concrete stand which could accommodate 2 000 spectators. At the end of 1928, mainly as a result of the All Blacks tour, the Sub-union could show a record financial gain and used the profits to erect the changing-rooms and toilets they had waited for, for so long. Loftus is named after Robert Owen Loftus Versfeld, who is seen as the founder of organised sport in the Pretoria area. When Mr. Loftus Versfeld died suddenly in May 1932, the Sub-union paid the fitting tribute of renaming the Eastern Sports Grounds. From then on, it was to be known as Loftus Versfeld.
The phenomenal growth of rugby was accompanied by a dearth of playing fields. Apart from the 3 605 pupils who played rugby in 1937, there were 2 202 senior players actively involved. As early as 1934 the Pretoria Sub-union was unable to provide enough fields to satisfy the needs of the schools. The prospect of two additional municipal fields being laid out on the racecourse had not materialised by March 1936.
During 1937 the Municipality laid out another field at Loftus Versfeld, while the Sub-union was granted the use of a field at Schoolplaats on the corner of Schubart and Boom Streets, which was used mainly for school rugby. By offering the use of their fields, the Police Sports Club, the University and the Railway Institute helped to alleviate the shortage of fields.
The Eastern Sports grounds were initiated on 18 April 1914. At present teams are playing on the same playing surface. The N.T.R.U (Northern Transvaal Rugby Union) now B.B.R.U (Blue Bulls Rugby Union) was initiated in 1938.
Here is a list of important dates and historic occasions:
- 1906: Area first used as sports field.
- 1914: Fields got initiated as Eastern Sports grounds.
- 1923: First concrete structure – accommodating 2000 spectators.
- 1928: Changing rooms and toilets were added.
- 1932: Mr. Loftus Versfeld died. Stadium renamed to Loftus Versfeld.
- 1938: Northern Transvaal Rugby Union was initiated.
- 1946: First Currie Cup victory at Loftus for Northern Transvaal
- 1948: On-going improvements on the stadium.
- 1972: Upper Eastern Pavilion added.
- 1974: Lower Southern Pavilion construction.
- 1977: Main Pavilion construction.
- 1984: Northern Pavilion under construction.
- 1989: Southern Pavilion renovated (just as it is today).
- 1994: Nelson Mandela present at England vs South Africa Test Match
- 1995: Eastern Pavilion renovated (just as it is today).
- 1995: One of the official Rugby World Cup stadiums.
- 1997: Northern Transvaal Rugby Union name changed to Blue Bulls Rugby Union.
- 1998: Minolta became official sponsor – Stadium renamed: Minolta Loftus.
- 2003: Securicor became official sponsor – Stadium renamed: Securicor Loftus.
- 2005: Vodacom became official sponsor – Stadium renamed back to Loftus Versfeld.
- 2008: Major improvements done for 2010 FIFA World Cup
- 2009: Loftus Versfeld hosted the Super Rugby Final – Bulls won the Match against Chiefs (New Zealand).
- 2010: One of venues for the official FIFA World Cup stadiums.
Today Loftus Versfeld can house 50 000 spectators
Stadium name changing
The Stadium has gone through a variety of name changes, especially due to sponsorships:
- 1914: Eastern Sportsground
- 1934: Loftus Versfeld
- 1998: Minolta Loftus
- 2003: Securicor Loftus
- 2005: back to Loftus Versfeld Stadium when Vodacom became the major sponsor of the stadium
On 1 September 2005 Vodacom returned the Stadium to the team and its fans.
More than just rugby
Loftus is not just a rugby stadium. One of the Pretoria based Premium Soccer League teams: Mamelodi Sundowns frequently use the stadium for their matches. It’s also used by Kaizer Chiefs from time to time and hosts major regional and national soccer matches.
In 2010 Loftus hosted 6 soccer matches for the FIFA World Cup. Spain, who eventually became the winners of the Cup, was among the teams who played here. Other notable international teams that played here have been Manchester United and Manchester City.
The stadium has also hosted many musical events including concerts by UB40, Celine Dion and Robbie Williams, with some of these concerts drawing crowds of up to about 80,000 people.
Loftus Versfeld was featured in the Clint Eastwood film Invictus, which starred Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. The match featured was between England and South Africa and took place on 4 June 1994.