If I had a buck for every person who’s asked why the crowds have been so poor for the first three matches of the Lions’ tour I might well have had enough to pay the R230 the South African Rugby Union was asking for entry to the Absa Stadium last night.
Mike Greenaway reports for The Mercury:
It’s a lot of money for the average person, especially one with a wife and children.
So we’ve had 12 000 lost souls in Rustenburg, 22 000 forlorn folk cursing their luck that they had to pay to watch the wretched Golden Lions (do they have a claim against the local Lions for their misrepresentation as a professional rugby team?) and 23 000 in Bloemfontein for the game-of-the-tour (so far).
We’re talking about half-full stadiums (not half-empty, in case you mistake me for a pessimist) for a tour that comes around every dozen years. Are we as a rugby nation showing scant respect for the British and Irish Lions; is the tour devalued by the poor attendance at these warm-up games before the Test series?
Aah, I think we’ve just had a Freudian slip. Warm-up games – that’s what they are because of the removal of the 28 Springboks off preparing for the Tests.
Paul O’Connell, the Lions’ captain, last week said he fully understood why there were no current Springboks released for the month-long curtain-raiser to the June 20 Test in Durban. He put it down to shorter Lions’ tours in the professional era.
That sounds about right. Because, while it’s often been said that a Lions tour is the last good, old-fashioned rugby tour, it unfortunately is not.
Ten games in six weeks is not an old-fashioned Lions’ tour. In the old days, a tour took anything from three to five months, which provided plenty of time for between-match recovery. The Lions would play full-strength provincial teams containing Springboks intent on softening-up their adversaries before the Tests. A match against, say, the Bulls took on the status of a “fifth” Test.
That was what the rugby fans wanted to see.
In modern Lions’ tours, the non-Test games simply don’t have the status of days of yore. No current Boks, 7.10pm kick-offs during the working week and an inflated average price of R250.
In fact, let’s cut to the chase… the South African Rugby Union’s decision (in conjunction with provinces) to charge a price beyond the reach of the man-in-the-street is the overriding reason for the poor attendances.
Greed, avarice, call it what you will. The ticket prices are too high.
It was expected that the British and Irish would come in hordes to fill the stands that South Africans could not afford to grace but then the recession struck and the fans have chosen not to pitch or to restrict their visit to the Test matches.
The organisers have been penny wise but pound foolish.Tweet