JOHANNESBURG – Superhero Sunday was a major success. It was also an indicator that rugby fans are still happy to go to an actual sporting venue, rather than watch it on TV, and that Super Rugby is far from dead.
Crowd attendances in South Africa have been on the decline for years, with serious questions being asked last year as to why so few rugby fans were turning up to watch their teams in action. And the small crowds are not only a South African problem, but in the other Super Rugby territories, too.
Why then, with nothing on the line and two weeks out from the start of the competition proper, did 50000 turn up at the Cape Town Stadium to watch the Marvel-comic-inspired double-header in what was called Superhero Sunday? They were only friendly matches after all.
No one can quite put their finger on it.
Was it because the four franchises were kitted out in the colours of Thor, Spiderman, Black Panther and Captain America or was it because the tickets were properly priced?
Maybe it was because Cape Town fans are simply loyal, love their rugby and know when something’s going to be good. Or, the marketing was spot-on, or there is just nothing else to do in Cape Town on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Whatever the reasons that got the fans to turn up in their thousands – many dressed in the colours of their favourite Marvel stars – the day was a major success.
I, too, was in the stadium on Sunday and the atmosphere and vibe was electric. I’m not sure, though, whether the changed kits is something that should be looked at as solving the long-term challenges of livening up Super Rugby matches.
The thing is, the four teams already have their own unique identities and the marketing gurus should really do a better job boosting the existing team names. It might just be me, but really, the Lions are the Lions and the Sharks the Sharks – surely selling them that way is better than trying to market other names and brands?
I firmly believe “Superhero Sunday” would have attracted the same number of people (who rocked up this last weekend), and been just as big a success, had the teams simply played in their normal colours.
Was it not the double-header, and the opportunity to see so many Bok stars in action at the same venue in back-to-back games, that was the real drawcard?
Add in some proper competition for log points that would be on offer in the competition proper and the fans would be even more excitable.
Following the events of Sunday, local rugby bosses should now surely consider the possibility of hosting back-to-back matches at one venue in the competition going forward. Each major union could have a turn to host all the teams, profits could be shared and the fans would get their money’s worth, too; feeling it’s worth stepping out for the afternoon and not having to miss the action of the earlier or later kick off of the other local fixtures.
There are certainly enough rugby followers in the four Super Rugby host cities for all the teams to be well-backed by their own fans on the day and it’s something that’s definitely worth a try.
Well done to whoever thought up the concept of “Superhero Sunday”.
Whether you liked it or not, it worked, and it’s time the bosses and marketers started thinking along similar lines to get the fans back into the stadiums. It just requires a bit of effort and outside-the-box thinking.