Loftus achieves sell out objective for Stormers derby

rugby01 March 2024 12:31| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Saturday’s massive Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby between the Bulls and the Stormers will be played in front of a sold-out stadium and the almost 50,000-strong crowd will be close to a record for a pool game in the competition.

The Bulls confirmed at their team announcement press conference just before lunch on Friday that just 120 tickets remained to be sold, and they expected those to be snapped up in the few minutes it was set to take Jake White to announce his team.

While some suites at Loftus Versfeld may not have been snapped up, the 47,000-odd tickets for the game have all been allocated or sold, and now the wait will begin to see how many filter into the stadium for the north-south showdown.

Last year’s record-breaking game against the Stormers saw the Bulls sell 43,893 tickets, but only 41,205 fans made it into the stadium.

The Bulls are hoping Saturday’s number eclipses the 2023/4 round six clash between Munster and Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, which brought in 49,246 fans and is the current top attendance in league rounds in the URC.

If one stretches back even more there were several “judgement day” double-header derbies in Wales that topped the old Pro12 and Pro14 attendance figures, with the 2016 version bringing in 68,262 fans at the Principality Stadium, and the 2018 version 62,338 fans.

Last year’s URC final between the Stormers and Munster was the top-selling URC match with 56,334 fans going to DHL Stadium last May, and that was closely followed by the crowd of 47,261 that attended the semifinal a week earlier against Connacht.

In all, there have been nine games in Pro 12/14 or URC history that have topped the 50,000 mark.

Last season’s quarterfinal between the Bulls and Stormers in Cape Town saw 44,109 people attend and the Christmas derby played at the DHL Stadium on 23 December was just over 42,000.

But big crowds for the north-south derby look to be returning as the rivalry between the two sides increases, and coach Jake White was more than pleased on hearing this week that there was a possibility of a sellout crowd.

“I’m longing for the day that we have all the Springboks playing in these derbies. The Jason Jenkins, RG Snymans of this world. I’m hearing that it could be sold out, can you imagine if we had another 10, 15 World Cup winners running out here, how big that game would be?” White said.

“It is wonderful. One of the nice things about this, and all across history is when the Northern Transvaal-Western Province game, or as they are known today Bulls-Stormers, is the biggest game on the calendar and people are talking about it, then you are doing your job properly.

“There are times when over the past couple of seasons it wasn’t a big fixture, and I say that with respect to those guys, but now everyone is talking about the north-south derby and the teams having 12 guys in alignment camps.

“At least we know as a group we are on the right track - because if it is full here, and it is a great game of rugby, and every year this derby game becomes the biggest game on the calendar, then we are definitely on the right track.”

White said there was nowhere else he wanted to be on Saturday.

“These are the great games you want to be part of. If it is sold out here, that is why I want to coach. You want to be part of these big games, there is nothing worse than arriving at a big game and there are two men and a dog. These guys have worked hard and they now get the opportunity to play in a big game at home.

“We haven’t played the Stormers many times at home, especially with a full-strength side, so it is a great measurement for us. The Stormers have been the form team of the competition. And while people will write about how many times we haven’t beaten them, jeez, not many teams have beaten them in this competition in the last two seasons.

“The challenge we have is to produce our best game in the biggest games and this is a big one. This is where we can judge ourselves and measure ourselves if we have aspirations of doing well at the back end of the competition - and in Europe.”

Kick off is at 5.05pm.