Small crowds an issue in Super Rugby

Cape Town - A packed stadium for a Super Rugby clash is a rare sight these days. 

The Stormers were by far South Africa's best supported side in 2015, bringing in an average of around 32 400 per Super Rugby match.

But it was much worse for the likes of the Bulls and the Sharks, who averaged 19 037 and closer to 19 500 at Loftus Versfeld and King's Park respectively. 

Last year when the Stormers hosted the Brumbies at Newlands in their playoff match, there were 28-odd thousand spectators in a stadium that can accommodate 48 000. 

It was still a crowd bigger than anything Durban had seen all season, but would have left the Cape franchise slightly disappointed given that it was a knockout fixture. 

The crowd attendances have not only been a concern in South Africa, but in New Zealand and Australia too.

And now, with the tournament expanding from 15 to 18 teams in 2016, the need for support is bigger than ever as the new format seeks to find a level of sustainability. 

SANZAR CEO Andy Marinos is fully aware of the challenges, and getting people to the stadium on match day is one of the things he is looking to address when he takes up his post on January 1. 

"It is something that concerns the unions and it is something that concerns SANZAR. It’s something we keep a very close eye on in terms of our TV viewership and our in-stadium viewership," Marinos told Sport24 on Wednesday morning.

"I think it’s a problem faced by rugby generally across the board.

"We will obviously be working really closely with all of the franchises to try and address that through innovative ways and means of creating a greater in-stadium experience."

But why are fans not going to stadiums? Is it the price of tickets? Marinos has a different theory.

"The biggest challenge of it all is if you look at the South Africa market, it’s very dependent on the form of the team and if you look at New Zealand with the success of the Highlanders over the last year, their attendance numbers were up and there’s a real feel good factor around," he said.

"Then speaking to the guys at the Crusaders … they’ve been severely impacted over the last couple of years and so have most of the other franchises.

"The biggest challenge facing sport is how we can make it more appealing to the age group of 18-35 market because that’s where our next consumer base is going to come from, and what can we do in stadiums to enhance that experience?" 
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