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Ken Borland

Many things buffet the SuperRugby product, but here’s a fresh idea to sell it 0

Posted on February 09, 2019 by Ken

Economic hardships, the lure of foreign lands and a saturated market all buffet SA Rugby’s efforts to produce an alluring SuperRugby product, but in the magnificently comfortable Cape Town Stadium last weekend they were given some massive ideas in terms of getting it to work again.

Getting spectators to watch live sport these days is all about the stadium experience, and the fact the Cape Town Stadium was sold out for the SuperRugby Superhero Sunday Double-header – warm-up matches that ultimately count for nothing – tells you the venue is doing something right.

Spacious and with plenty of open spaces along the concourses, Cape Town Stadium is also brilliantly designed so that there is not a bad seat in the house. Thanks to SuperSport, I enjoyed my first visit to the Green Point venue last weekend and I was enormously impressed.

The Cape Town public came in their droves even though the Stormers rested most of their big stars. Fortunately there were enough Springboks in the Lions, Bulls and Sharks teams to make up for that. When Duane Vermeulen walked on to the field, the Stormers faithful began cheering, until they remembered he has signed for their archrivals the Bulls, which was when the boos and jeers began.

The big success story of Superhero Sunday was bringing the kids back into the stadium. Support for rugby seems to be dying and what better way to halt the slide than by recruiting the yongsters and getting them hooked on the live game.

The fact that SuperSport and Vodacom, with huge backing from Marvel, made major efforts to market the day was obviously also crucial, but so too was the idea of four teams playing in one stadium.

Every SuperRugby franchise has a sizeable number of fans in cities outside of their province these days and I would love to see double-headers played in the actual competition as well.

The cricketers do it during their T20 tournament and the argument of teams losing home-ground advantage is easily combatted and should be set aside if, for probably the first time ever, the unions are willing to do what is best for the game.

The answer is simple: The schedule must be such that the Stormers and the Sharks visit the Lions and the Bulls on the same weekend. Seeing as though both coastal teams are now on the Highveld, they play at the same venue, either Ellis Park or Loftus Versfeld. The next year, the double-header is played at the other Gauteng venue.

The number of Sharks and Stormers fans in Gauteng is huge and all the coaches I spoke to – Swys de Bruin, Robert du Preez and Pote Human – were supportive of the double-header concept.

The superhero theme was novel and certainly attracted the kids, but it doesn’t have to continue. The success of the double-header does not rest on it, the South African rugby fan is known for the passion they bring to the game and there are other narratives that can be pursued.

Besides, the sight of a rather unathletic Black Panther and a very naff Spiderman mincing around are not things I would want to see again. Apparently Marvel insist that only their regular costume-wearers are allowed to fulfil those roles and the Americans they brought fell way short of what my imagination had been inspired to expect from the comics.

Cape Town Stadium, however, surpassed expectations and it is difficult to comprehend why Western Province rugby would not want to move there from the old and decrepit Newlands stadium, which has tradition and a proud history going for it, but not much else.

Which sounds a bit like SA Rugby at times, but a new SuperRugby season full of possibility lies before us; will they take the lead offered by two of their most loyal sponsors in SuperSport and Vodacom and come up with new, fresh ideas to re-popularise the tournament?

SA Rugby had to listen to stakeholders’ bark or face the bite – Roux 0

Posted on May 01, 2017 by Ken


According to Saru CEO Jurie Roux, South African rugby had to listen to the bark coming from broadcasters and all other stakeholders in the game and cut the number of SuperRugby franchises or face the bite of economic hardship and potential disaster further down the road.

Roux was speaking on Monday at the launch of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, the new tournament that will slot in at the level below SuperRugby, following Sanzaar’s announcement at the weekend that South Africa will only be able to field four teams from next year.

“Our stakeholders – sponsors, fans, broadcasters and media – have been speaking very clearly about the lack of integrity in the competition because not everyone plays everyone else, and the confusing format of SuperRugby. Broadcasters wanted change to come immediately otherwise they warned us we were going to run into contracting issues.

“And the economic reality is that we cannot sustain six franchises, we can survive with five but then we’d have to sacrifice other things, and neither can we sustain it from the player point of view either. So it’s high time that tough decisions were made for the good of South African rugby, that’s what the staff are paid for and the office bearers are elected for.

“Ultimately it’s a numbers decision, the numbers of spectators and viewers are in decline and there’s obviously an issue with what stadiums are providing as well. Plus half our franchises lose more matches than they win, so they’re not providing quality competition,” Roux said at the Bill Jardine Stadium on Monday.

The CEO said politics and emotion had governed the previous decision to expand to six franchises, but he hopes the newly formed franchise committee, and the Saru general council that will ultimately consider their proposal, lays those factors aside when they consider which two franchises should be cut from Super Rugby.

“The ultimate competition was probably Super 12, but there was some selfishness, some mandates from country’s high-performance units and a lot of revenue and political factors that led to the expansion. The reality is that there will always be some politics involved, but emotions are tougher to manage and I’m sad to say a lot of rugby decisions have been based on them.

“My plea to the franchise committee is to make a swift recommendation, not based on politics or emotion, so that nobody can accuse us of stalling. I will push as hard as I can to have this decision made as quickly as possible, at most within a month’s time,” Roux said.

The CEO suggested another four professional franchises could play as a group in other overseas tournaments, while adding that the 14 provincial unions had to continue as semi-professional entities looking after the broad base of the South African rugby pyramid – the amateur and school teams.

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