South Africa’s Coastal Stadiums Score With “Summer Rugby” Success


The Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers are looking back at a historic first December of United Rugby Championship action in South Africa as a resounding success, both on the field and off it.

The introduction of “Summer Rugby” to South Africa for the first time featured local Derbies in Durban and Cape Town on 23 December and 31 December, and with the coastal franchises under pressure to deliver a stadium spectacle that would be enough to lure fans from the beaches to the bleachers.

Both excelled as almost 100 000 fans attended these matches. Such was the positive response that a total of 95 538 fans made up the largest rugby audience of any country in the United Rugby Championship over that period.

“With South Africans not being traditionally used to attending rugby matches over the December period, we understood the importance of creating a festival atmosphere around matches with the focus being on family and festivity,” said Novashni Chetty, Marketing and PR Manager at the Sharks.

They billed their 23 December matches as “Christmas at the Sharks” and offered carols by candlelight, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a Santa experience for the kids. The Durbanites then continued to embrace the family concept with their “Biggest Family New Year’s Eve Party” for the 31 December match, including braais and picnics on the outside fields around the stadium and performances by Rubber Duc and Lemon and Herb as part of a countdown to the New Year.

“In that way, we hoped that families would come in their numbers to Hollywoodbets Kings Park and to our pleasant surprise they did. We were thrilled that we welcomed in excess of 50,000 fans to the stadium over the two matches, where the focus was on so much more than 80 minutes of rugby. Fans embraced these matches and our efforts to create a family atmosphere were definitely achieved. The United Rugby Championship matches held over the December period were special and memorable and we cannot thank our fans enough for their support. Those matches set the tone for an exciting 2023 rugby season and we look forward to bigger crowds and reigniting the fans’ passion for watching rugby live at our stadium.”

In Cape Town, DHL Stormers capitalised on the mass of holiday traffic at the V&A Waterfront which has an average of 2.5 million visitors during the summer months, and where they promoted the upcoming matches.

A Christmas Party at the stadium, Christmas hats for fans courtesy of Vodacom, fireworks and a host of other activations were the backdrop for the 23 December match against the Vodacom Bulls. And the 31 December match against the Emirates Lions featured another fireworks display to ring in the New Year. While entertaining the fans, it also hit home with the team and players.

“The United Rugby Championship Derbies that were held at the DHL Stadium over the festive period were a huge success in every sense. To play in front of crowds like that with a special holiday atmosphere really lifted the team and made it a memorable experience for everyone involved,” said DHL Stormers coach John Dobson.