Super Rugby Pacific: Why is it so difficult to fill stadiums in New Zealand?

Richard Knowler is a sports journalist at Stuff

OPINION: Where will the majority of Super Rugby Pacific fans be this weekend?

Probably at home or in the pub, watching the game on a screen as they strap on a nose bag and discuss worldly affairs. Rugby will most likely be a part of those conversations for both good and bad reasons.

The conversation, perhaps, will also center on why they didn’t bother to walk around their local stadium.

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Highlanders No.10 Mitch Hunt says fiery Australian sides are playing with something to prove in the Super Rugby Pacific.

This topic is not new. Yet, it seems no one is close to solving the mystery of how to get more fans to attend games.

Those bold enough to launch their own informal investigation into the matter may find those responsible bear the brunt of the blame. Yet the folks with the whistles aren’t the ones who have formed a complicated law book that few people, and a number of players, fully understand.

READ MORE:
* Super Rugby Pacific preview: Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea key to Hurricanes hopes
* Super Rugby: Hurricanes add Waikato and Chiefs midfielder Bailyn Sullivan to their roster for 2022
* Super Rugby: Dane Coles calls on Hurricanes to close defensive gaps and welcomes Owen Franks

Is it any wonder that a number of games have looked as good as a broken bottle in a gutter?

Several other old chestnuts are likely to be rolled out when investigating low attendance: injury stoppages, scrum resets, TMOs repeatedly pressing the rewind button, high food and drink prices and loud music are popular targets.

Sometimes, when the growls are loudest, it seems like no one is happy.

Super Rugby franchises are not dumb. They hear all of this, and more. Just like New Zealand rugby.

A lack of ticket sales doesn’t just impact the bottom line. It’s also a terrible look, when so many seats are empty.

However, the product does not attract crowds.

Do the players have a role to play in this? Yes.

However, with their guaranteed salaries, thanks to the collective of the players; there is no chance of getting punched in the pocket for producing shoddy entertainment.

We all know it: the consumer has every right to decide how they will spend their discretionary money. How many will be exchanged for a place in rugby this weekend?

The Waratahs celebrate their 24-21 win over the Crusaders at Sydney's Leichhardt Oval last weekend.

Jeremy Ng/Getty Images

The Waratahs celebrate their 24-21 win over the Crusaders at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval last weekend.

1. Maybe help will come from the Aussies

Fair play for them. When the Waratahs and Brumbies upset the Crusaders and Hurricanes last weekend, they defied predictions that the Kiwis would enter their gardens and tickle their bellies before kicking them out the back door.

Not convinced it wasn’t just a bug? This is understandable. It’s up to the Ockers to prove a point, again.

The Highlanders-Reds matchup and the Chiefs-Brumbies matchup are the most intriguing matches of the round.

Chiefs' Brodie Retallick receives attention from medical staff during the game against the Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato on March 26.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Chiefs’ Brodie Retallick receives attention from medical staff during the game against the Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato on March 26.

2. One more week until Brodie Retallick comes back from a broken thumb

The All Blacks lock’s last appearance coincided with the Chiefs’ 34-19 loss to the Crusaders on March 26.

Slated to return next weekend when the Chiefs meet the Rebels in Melbourne, Retallick’s vast knowledge will be welcomed by coach Clayton McMillan as they consider their run to the play-offs.

Just like the arrival of Captain Sam Cane, back from paternity leave, in Hamilton on Saturday evening. His calm demeanor, especially when Reds half-back Tate McDermott kept babbling into the referee’s ear, was missed in Brisbane last weekend.

Former All Blacks and Crusaders mainstay Owen Franks has been named to the Hurricanes bench.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Former All Blacks and Crusaders mainstay Owen Franks has been named to the Hurricanes bench.

3 Coles and Franks: The Old Firm Reunites

When Owen Franks left New Zealand for England at the end of 2019, the prospect of his affair with Dane Coles at the Hurricanes seemed as likely as a group of dairy farmers rushing to the local hall to receive a lecture from the Gone green.

Yet look at this. Forward rowers Franks and Coles, who last played together when the All Blacks lost to the Wallabies in Perth in 2019, have been named to the Hurricanes reserve for the game against Fijian Drua on Sunday.

Coles, will make his first start of the year after recovering from a hamstring injury, and Franks has finally repaired a torn Achilles tendon. Coles loves to bark in the park. Ex-crusader Franks is the opposite.

Between them, they have competed in 188 events. Both are more than honest traders. They are all the game needs. They might even have butts on the seats. Happy to see you again.

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