Summer rugby festivities were a big success for SA’s coastal teams

The Sharks and Stormers consider the first month of United Rugby Championship competition in South Africa to have been a spectacular success, both on and off the field.

The inaugural season of “Summer Rugby” in South Africa included local derbies in Durban and Cape Town on December 23 and 31, with the coastal franchises under pressure to provide a stadium spectacle that would attract spectators from the beaches to the stands.

Approximately 100,000 spectators witnessed these matches. With 95 538 spectators, New Zealand had the greatest rugby audience of any country in the United Rugby Championship during that time period.

“Because South Africans are not traditionally accustomed to attending rugby matches in December, we understood the importance of creating a festival atmosphere around matches with a focus on family and festivity,” said Sharks Marketing and PR Manager Novashni Chetty.

They advertised the match on December 23 as “Christmas at the Sharks” and provided carols by candlelight, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and a Santa experience for children.

The Durbanites continued to embrace the family theme with their “Biggest Family New Year’s Eve Party” for the 31 December game, which featured braais, picnics, and performances by Rubber Duc and Lemon and Herb during the countdown to the New Year.

“We hoped that this would encourage families to visit Kings Park in large numbers, and to our pleasant surprise, they did.” We were ecstatic to host over 50,000 fans over the course of the two matches, when the focus was on so much more than 80 minutes of rugby,” Chetty remarked.

“Fans enjoyed these matches, and our attempts to create a family-friendly environment were unquestionably successful. The December United Rugby Championship matches were special and unforgettable, and we cannot thank our fans enough for their support.

“These matches set the tone for an exciting 2023 rugby season, and we anticipate larger crowds and a resurgence of fan enthusiasm for watching rugby live at our stadium.”

In Cape Town, the Stormers marketed the upcoming matches at the V&A Waterfront, which receives an average of 2.5 million visitors during the summer months and is a popular tourist destination.

The match versus the Bulls on December 23 was accompanied by a Christmas party at the stadium, Christmas hats for supporters provided by Vodacom, pyrotechnics, and a variety of other activities. In addition, another fireworks show rang in the New Year during the 31 December match versus the Lions.

In addition to exciting the fans, according to Stormers head coach John Dobson, it also resonated with the team and players.

Dobson stated that the United Rugby Championship derbies hosted at the Cape Town Stadium over the holiday season were a tremendous success in every way.

The Stormers stated, “Playing in front of such large crowds with a festive atmosphere really boosted the team and made it a memorable experience for everyone.”

Sharks versus Lions URC attendance for summer rugby Image by Steve Haag Gallo.