Grand Final shatters VURC records

rugby25 May 2023 07:01
By:Michael Vlismas
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DHL Stormers © Getty Images

It’s bigger than a Springbok test match. It’s easily the biggest in the history of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. In fact, only the mega pop band U2 has managed bigger. There’s no doubt that this weekend’s Grand Final between the DHL Stormers and Munster has shattered records on all fronts.

With 55 000 fans snapping up tickets in less than three hours, Saturday’s Grand Final has already outsold the 2022 test match between the Springboks and Wales at the same venue. Only U2 has managed to sell more tickets at the DHL Stadium, filling it to 63 957 in 2011.

And good luck even trying to find standing room.

For the first time in the history of the stadium, every single hospitality suite is sold out. That’s 240 suites in total. Even the stadium’s Business Lounge is sold out at a full capacity of 2 100.

It’s not just South African rugby fans who’ll be in the stands on Saturday. An estimated 5 000 Munster fans are traveling to this game, and they’re coming from all over. Munster Rugby put out a call on social media for fans to share their travel plans, and the Red Army has responded worldwide – from Limerick to Boston.

Some have started their journeys to Cape Town from the Irish village of Puckane and then on to Amsterdam, Doha or Dubai. Another Munster fan climbed on a train in Gyor in northwest Hungary, travelled to Vienna Airport, flew to Addis Ababa and then Johannesburg, and plans to drive to Welkom and then Cape Town.

“It’s fantastic to see the response from the people of Cape Town to the Grand Final. We’re delighted to welcome the DHL Stormers supporters back to the stadium, and we’re also excited to see that there is a Munster contingency joining us from Ireland. We welcome them too, and wish them a very enjoyable stay in the city,” said the stadium’s Chief Executive Officer, Lesley de Reuck.

The attendance for this Grand Final is a record for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. It also boosts the overall season’s attendance to a record 1.6 million fans in both hemispheres. The Playoff games alone set a record of 200 000 fans attending the various matches.

The broadcast production around the event will also be one of the biggest in the history of South African rugby.

SuperSport is collaborating with their northern hemisphere counterpart in the competition, Viaplay, on a joint production that will bring some of the best on-air talent to the side of the field on Saturday, including former Springboks Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers and Breyton Paulse as well as former Ireland and Munster star Alan Quinlan, former Wales and British and Irish Lions player Tom Shanklin, and renowned Welsh presenter Ross Harries.

“South African viewers are in for a real treat with this talent,” says Adam Redmond, Head of Broadcast and Communications for the United Rugby Championship.

“Our job is to try and bring these 16 teams and 5 territories together in this competition, and now we are doing so with this media offering for the Grand Final. It’s just broadening everybody’s interest in the competition, which is great. The broadcasters have access to more talent and if you’re watching in South Africa you’ll get a world view from both hemispheres. It’s the complete rugby broadcast package.”

Redmond says they’ve been blown away by the response to this Grand Final.

“Our social media is surging. Our video views are through the roof. We’re optimistic that our TV audiences will be a record. We’ve never had more people attend our playoff games, and the DHL Stormers broke their own attendance records in consecutive weeks. Every single metric we look at is up. We would never have expected the URC to be in this position this quickly.

“An all-South African Grand Final in season one was a great tale to tell, but it left people in the north on the outside looking in. Now we have the real north versus south and everybody is engaged. This is going to be a must-be-at event. Even in the heydays of Super Rugby, I cannot imagine 5 000 New Zealanders or Australians travelling to South Africa for a final. This is beyond belief. This is where rivalries are born.”