Saturday’s Vodacom Super 14 final was watched by a record number of South African television viewers at the end of a season in which the average TV audience for the season grew by an astonishing 42 percent compared to 2009.
The Vodacom Bulls’ clash with the Vodacom Stormers at Orlando Stadium in Soweto was watched by a combined audience of 1.299m on the rights-holding SuperSport and M-Net – more even than watched the 2007 Rugby World Cup final.
The audience set a record for a sports event on the broadcaster and was the second successive week that the one million mark had been breached for Vodacom Super Rugby following the Vodacom Bulls’ semi-final against the Crusaders the week before.
“An all-South African final with the added excitement of it being hosted in Soweto added to the interest in the match, but it only continued a trend we had seen all season,” said Mr Oregan Hoskins, the president of the South African Rugby Union (SARU).
“The audience was up 38% in February and continued to increase every week over the tournament – even before the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Stormers emerged as the tournament’s pace-setters.
“We’re seeing sustained and unprecedented levels of interest in rugby. Our players and coaches have led the way with their performances on the field.
“Supporters like to follow successful teams and associate with winners and our teams have certainly been that.”
Mr Hoskins added that the emphasis law makers had placed on interpretations to encourage ball-in-hand play and cut down on scrum resets, improving the quality of rugby had had an impact.
The audience for the final was 55% higher than last year’s final and 28% higher than the Sharks and Vodacom Bulls final in 2007. Thirty-one matches had audiences of more than half a million viewers compared to only 13 in 2009.
Mr Hoskins added: “Congratulations to the Vodacom Bulls on winning the title and retaining it for South Africa - the trophy was one of the big attractions of the Champion Tour with which we began the year.
“People flocked to share in the success of rugby at first hand and thanks to our Vodacom Super 14 teams we’ve had a marvellous start to the year.”