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Rugby | SuperSport Rugby Challenge

Rugby Fans enjoying the 2017 SuperSport Rugby Challenge

Rugby Challenge set for community stadiums

The success of taking the inaugural SuperSport Rugby Challenge fixtures to community stadiums has been such that the powers that be are thinking of hosting all of next season’s games at similar venues.

Having had a rousing response to their decision to take almost half of the competition’s matches to venues that aren’t exactly traditional rugby stadiums, SA Rugby and SuperSport are now thinking about hosting the games exclusively at the small stadiums next season.

“I think the way to do it is that none of these games should be played at traditional stadiums, they will only be played at community stadiums,” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander. “We’re now reaping the benefits of what’s happening here at these community fields countrywide.

“You can see that the mood about rugby has changed so this is where you have to go. If you want this to be the game of the people you have to take it to the people.”

SuperSport International chief executive Gideon Khobane was keen on the idea, as long as it worked out logistically: “I think we need to sit down with the people that do the logistics to see if it’s feasible, but it’s what we want.

“Even if it doesn’t happen next year, next year there must be progress in that there must be even more games in the communities and the year after even more until we get to a place where all of them are in the communities. But certainly that should be our aim.”

Alexander reiterated how impressed he had been with the overall turnout for the tournament throughout.

“The one thing that has impressed me is the crowd participation,” he said. “We had good spectators all over South Africa. When we held it at traditional rugby facilities it wasn’t well-attended. By bringing it to people like this all of a sudden you’ve got people back in the game.

“These were communities in which rugby was played for over a hundred years and all of a sudden after unity we took rugby away from them. These aren’t people who will go to Newlands, these are people who support club rugby.”

Khobane was happy that SuperSport had achieved what it had set out to do: “For us the output is two-fold. One is to help South African rugby to nurture young talent and put it to the fore and for the teams to give exposure to their commercial partners when they’re on TV.

“The second one for us as SuperSport is the training this provides to young producers and directors coming through, that’s why this is very important for us.”

Western Province coach John Dobson, probably the tournament’s biggest disciple, said having coached in this competition in its various guises he was of the opinion that this was the best of the lot.

“By daylight this is the best,” explained the winning coach. “We played in the Vodacom Cup and there was no vibe to it even though the level of rugby was quite nice. There was nothing in it for anyone in the Currie Cup Qualifying competition last year.

“This, we’ve been to Bridgeton, Mdantsane twice, Green Point ... this was so special. It’s a privilege to our players. Some of these crowds we’ve played in front of have been bigger than some Super Rugby crowds on the same day. And just the atmosphere of being among the people has been brilliant.”

Dobson’s counterpart, Griquas coach Peter Engledow, agreed: “I think the competition has been exceptionally well-organised. I think having the three groups has worked well. I thoroughly enjoyed taking the games to venues like East London and here, it’s been brilliant and the competition has revived rugby at grassroots level and to the community. More importantly it’s been fun.”


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