Super Rugby

Plans afoot to boost Super Rugby's popularity

Andy Marinos (Gallo Images)
Andy Marinos (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - A complicated format and South African teams’ struggles have been given as reasons for declining TV and crowd figures for Super Rugby.

Rapport last week reported that SuperSport’s South African viewership of Super Rugby games dramatically decreased in 2016.

“Obviously the declining figures are worrying. But you have to take into account the amount of rugby that is now being broadcast and the way in which consumers use digital content,” SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos told the latest edition of Rapport.

“The performance of South African teams at the moment plays a role in that. Successful teams and high-quality matches drive attendance and TV audiences.”

Up until Round 9 of this year’s competition, viewership figures decreased by 3.8 million viewers compared to the same stage four years ago.

Attendance figures at stadiums are also decreasing, with only Newlands - which boasts an average of 26 992 fans per game - able to fill more than a half-full stadium.

Ellis Park, the home venue of the table-topping Lions, only has an average of 19 808 (32%) fans per game, while Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (15%, 6 914 fans per game), Free State Stadium (17%, 7 780), Loftus Versfeld (35%, 17 921) and Kings Park (45%, 23 591) are all struggling to put bums on seats.

According to the Afrikaans newspaper, SANZAAR has asked consulting firm Accenture to do a strategic review of the two-group, four-conference Super Rugby format and provide a solution to improve matters.

“The Pacific Islands is a region that can be incorporated if SANZAAR wants to expand the tournament,” said Marinos. “The current structure presents challenges. The goal is to have the best possible format that caters for all the expectations of the various role players.”

Furthermore, SA Rugby is expected to ask for more local derbies and for all of its teams to play against New Zealand sides. Under the current format, the South African teams in the Africa Conference 1 play Australian and not New Zealand sides.

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