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SA footballers to help honour Mandela

The South African football and rugby union teams will play matches at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on August 17, which has been designated Nelson Mandela Sports Day.

South African sports ministry officials said the event would bring the country's two most popular sports together in the former president's honour.

The FNB stadium, formerly known as Soccer City, was the showpiece venue when South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup, with Mandela making his last major public appearance at the final there.

For many years, football and rugby were on opposite sides of the apartheid divide, and the ministry said it was hoped that their joint billing would unite people "in celebration and promotion'' of Mandela's achievements.

But it added that Mandela's current condition - the 94-year-old is seriously ill in hospital - meant the announcement had come "at a time when South Africa is a nation in distress following the hospitalisation of our father and icon Nelson Mandela, who also happens to be the primary inspiration behind this initiative''.

The South African football team will play Burkina Faso in an exhibition match, while the Springboks will kick off their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina.

The day will also include a match between former South African and Italian international footballers.

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