Stephen Nell Cape Town - The number of television viewers who watched Super 14 rugby on SuperSport this year was the highest in the history of the competition. The average number of viewers per match was 198 572, well up on last season's 172 669. Viewing statistics for the competition were released on Thursday by James van Schoor, a portfolio manager at Sports Marketing Surveys. A total of 768 990 viewers watched the match between the Sharks and the Chiefs - the most for one match on SuperSport this year. This is considerably more than the 633 080 people who watched SuperSport's coverage of the World Cup final between South Africa and England last year. The final was also broadcast on SABC, however. The Super 14 semi-finals between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders and between the Waratahs and the Sharks were watched by 348 354 and 580 466 SuperSport viewers respectively. This is markedly down on the figures for last year's semi-finals, which were played at the most favourable times for SuperSport viewers. A total of 832 454 viewers watched the Bulls beat the Crusaders in Pretoria and 777 156 saw the match in Durban between the Sharks and the Blues last year. The overall increase in viewing figures on SuperSport is due to a variety of factors. "The success of the South African teams is probably one of the factors that stimulated interest," Van Schoor said. "The favourable broadcast times of last year's semi-finals also had an influence. The best viewing times are from 15:00 onwards." The real viewing figures are probably much higher because each television set that is tuned into a match is counted as only one viewer. "This is good news for Super 14 rugby," says Marc Jury, acting managing director of Sports Marketing Surveys. "It shows more South Africans are showing an interest in rugby."