Sevens in Queenstown unlikely again
Southern rugby fans are banging the drums loudly for the national provincial sevens tournament to return to Queenstown but it seems increasingly unlikely they will get their wish. Queenstown was the home of the national sevens tournament for many years but the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union won the right to host this year’s tournament, which was held at the weekend, in Rotorua. The event will also return to Rotorua in January next year, with the prospect of it remaining there after that. A Facebook page that was started in August titled ‘‘Bring the NZ 7’s back to Queenstown’’, gained plenty of momentum at the weekend as people showed their disappointment that the tournament was being staged in Rotorua and not in Queenstown. This week the page had close to 5000 likes and it had prompted a host of comments from people calling for the tournament to return to the resort town. Many of the comments during the past couple of days were prompted by a perception that the Rotorua public hadn’t supported the tournament and there was a poor turnout. ‘‘Drop it, back to qtown where people embrace it and appreciate the event,’’ Sam Baker said. Jeremy Drake said: ‘‘Rotorua got nothing on Queenstown. Didn’t see anyone on TV there watching it.’’ Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers defended the crowd numbers, saying while he was still yet to be provided with exact numbers for the weekend, he had been told that it stacked up well compared to Queenstown. Because the 25,000-capacity stadium in Rotorua was a much bigger ground than in Queenstown, and the fact the tournament was played across two grounds, there was a perception from those watching television that the numbers were smaller than those for Queenstown. ‘‘The feedback I got was that the crowd was greater than what there was in Queenstown, but I don’t have accurate numbers yet,’’ he said. ‘‘The goal is to grow it and get more and more people along.’’ Rogers said with the tournament growing to 26 teams across the men’s and women’s sections, it now had to be played across two grounds to fit it all in over two days. SKY TV covered only the games on the main ground whichirked some people who previously had been able to watch their men’s team play every game, live. The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union boss paid tribute to those in Queenstown who revived the national provincial sevens tournament but he said hosting the tournament was now logistically a much bigger beast as the sport gets bigger and bigger because of its Olympic status. ‘‘You’re almost doubling the event – in terms of 16 teams you can do that on one field quite easily and, in terms of tents and accommodation, I guess it makes it a lot smoother operation. ‘‘But when you’ve 26 teams to cater for, it becomes very big. The number of officials grows, the number of volunteers grows; we need 26 liaison officers where before you only needed 16,’’ Rogers said.