‘Bok actions are costing us’

Brian van Zyl believes the economic recession is not the only factor to blame for poor ticket sales at Springbok Tests.

Just one of the Bok Tests this year has been sold out, the second British & Irish Lions fixture at Loftus where a crowd of 52 511 was present. Last week’s Bloemfontein Test only saw 37 000 specatators in the ground and SA Rugby has launched an investigation into the poor attendances.

It views the economic recession as well as ‘event fatigue’ (where numerous sporting events have been held in the country in 2009) as the main reasons why Boks Tests aren’t being sold out.

Van Zyl, CEO of the Sharks, doubts whether this weekend’s Test against the All Blacks at King’s Park will be packed, making it five out of six Tests this year where gaping holes in the crowd will be seen.

‘I’d be very surprised if we get a full house,’ Van Zyl told keo.co.za. ‘The figure we’re looking at is between 42-45 000.’

Van Zyl agrees the current economic climate is a reason for the smaller crowds, but said the public’s disatisfaction with the Springboks is a reason why they aren’t willing to fork out the cash.

‘We have taken notice of our stakeholders’ feedback and people are upset with the Boks,’ said Van Zyl. ‘Peter de Villiers’s remarks in the media haven’t impressed many, 10 changes for the third Lions Test was also upsetting [this crowd of 58 318 at Ellis Park was the biggest of the year], while the whole arm-band protest didn’t go down well.

‘There have also been a helluva a lot of events, while the Lions’ tour could have dented many peoples’ budgets, as those prices were very high,’ he continued.

‘But the ticket prices for this Test are the same as last year’s against the Wallabies [where the Boks and De Villiers were booed off the park], and we nearly had a sell-out then. There must be other reasons than just the economy at play.’

Van Zyl noted that the Boks’ performance against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein had, to some degree, restored public faith.

‘The sales have definitely picked up since Monday, particularly on Tuesday, when 1 200 were sold. We put another 2 000 up for sale on Computicket on Wednesday, while we have had many enquiries from Johannesburg and upcountry – who we rely on for these matches.

‘Sales certainly have improved since the Boks’ performance on Saturday, but when you host a Test you always hope for a great demand. We’ve already seen what’s happened in Bloem, and the last I heard Newlands wasn’t sold out either. In Cape Town tickets are traditionally sold out weeks in advance so something’s not right.’

By Grant Ball, in Durban