Port Elizabeth’s rugby hungry public demonstrated this past weekend, once again, that it will be difficult for another city to lay claim to hosting the Sevens International Rugby Tournament.
With record crowds in excess of 63 000 – that Port Elizabeth has grown from the 8 000 or so that attended the tournament when it was held in George before moving to PE, an incredible crowd that sweep the Springboks to victory with their passionate support, friendly people and magnificent weather it will be hard for SARU to throw away all the hard won build up and branding by moving to another city and starting all over again.
A hard nosed businessman will look at the upward trend and put his money on Port Elizabeth retaining the tournament for another three years. Let us hope that the hard nosed businessmen in SARU and not the politicians will prevail.
The atmosphere in the stadium every time the Blitzbokke played was electric as eager fans moved into their seats en masse before every encounter. Notheing sells seats like a winning team and the Blitzbokke showed their class time and time again. The screams from the crowd every time a break away move towards the tryline was made were deafening, with record points scorer Cecil Afrika and winger Seabelo Senatla coming in for more than their fair share.
On defense and attack the Blitzbokke always looked menacing and in control – that they could have two or three men taking the tackles and still cover defense with only seven men seemed magical.
Demonstrating that having a winning team puts bums in seats has a corollary as well – three years ago when New Zealand’s All Blacks were a dominant force in Sevens Rugby the Southern terrace of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was awash with local residents who assured all that they were rabid All Blacks supporters. The numbers have now dwindled and this embarrassment that South Africans support another team when their own country is playing in the same tournament is slowly being assigned to the rubbish heap where it belongs. Now we just need to work on getting local support for the EP Kings and Eastern Province rugby will assume it’s rightful place as well.
As I write I still am not 110% convinced that the Sevens Tournament will return to PE – What do you think?