Sunday scrums on the way for local rugby fans
The SuperSport Rugby Challenge will bring the novel concept of Sunday rugby to South African audiences.
With the Gold Cup club rugby competition having already gently introduced local fans to rugby on what is usually a rest day for local players, the Rugby Challenge – through its five festivals during the round-robin stages and three in the knockout phases – is aimed at entrenching the idea.
Kelvin Watt, the executive chair of sports intelligence firm Repucom, said playing games on Sundays instead of on already congested Saturdays could well be the way forward in the battle to beef up stadium attendance and TV ratings.
“It’s a fantastic idea and ideal for families. SA Rugby should try it with Super Rugby. TV figures for sport on Sunday are very solid,” he said.
“Saturdays have become so busy for people with kids that Sundays have become a good family day for sport and entertainment.”
The first teams to put Watt’s theory to the test will be Eastern Province and Western Province in this weekend’s festival at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakele, outside Port Elizabeth. Border, Boland and club sides African Bombers and PE Harlequins will complete the fixture list.
While it’s great for commercial imperatives, moving a few games to Sunday has practical implications for the players, who would normally be recovering from post-match celebrations the night before.
But Border Bulldogs coach David Dobela doesn’t anticipate it being a problem at all.
“I come from a Sunday league background, so it shouldn’t be a problem for us. Even though we’ve become used to having a break, it’s just a case of adjustment.”
A few South African sportsmen, notably hammer thrower Chris Harmse, are opposed to participating in sport on Sundays on religious grounds.
Harmse’s stand is understood to have cost him a few Olympic and World Championship medals.
Naas Botha, who used to fly to Italy to play on Sunday after turning out for Northern Transvaal and who played in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys on Sundays, doesn’t see what the fuss is about.
“Life has moved on, but individuals need to make a call,” he said. “Ian Jones did in New Zealand and the All Blacks accommodated him.
“I got into trouble with my church when I was playing in the US in 1983. But aren’t we promoting ‘Sunday Christians’ with this view? I thought you were supposed to be a Christian every day.”