Tank Lanning

Empty seats prove a point

2012-08-23 09:19
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
One game … Just the single game is all Keegan Daniel got at No 8 before getting the Shepherd’s hook from Heyneke Meyer … Replacing him with Willem Alberts at 8, and bringing in Jacques Potgieter at 7. This after Pierre Spies got how many games to try and recover some form? I have stayed away from the accusations suggesting that the coach uses light blue tinted glasses when making Bok decisions, but he is making it pretty damn hard to keep that up.

So his big move is not to bring in Patrick Lambie or Ruan Pienaar, but to take away the linking whippet and bring in another blunderbuss … To take on the “driving maul and physicality” of the Pumas says Meyer. Should we not be focusing on the game we want to play, and not defending against the game they want to play? Especially against the new boys of the tournament, who proved last week that they are going to struggle?

Speaking of last week … I have given the WP management a fair amount of stick in this column recently, and still feel they bring upon themselves some of the vitriol that is being sent their way, but I found myself feeling a little sorry for them while in my seat in the Railway stand at Newlands on Saturday.

Even given the plethora of rugby in the modern era, a Test match is a scarce entity for a provincial union, especially one that has not taken occupancy of a snazzy new Soccer World Cup stadium that sits empty a few kilometres down the road. So when paying your reported R8 million to SARU to secure the Test you have been allocated, you kind of want to make it work for you!

Now it might be all PC to welcome Argentina to the Rugby Championship, and much hype was made of them playing their first game at Newlands, but they were without doubt more Pampas XV than Los Pumas against the Boks. Sure they will improve, and it is quite nice to see a few new faces invited to the SANZAR buffet, but try telling that to the WPRU marketing team who were trying to sell tickets to the game!

The last Test at Newlands was in 2010 when the Boks hammered France 42-17, and Saturday’s Test against Argentina was the only one Cape Town will see in 2012. The last time the team South African’s really want to see in action, the All Blacks, last saw the flat topped piece of granite in 2008.

No doubt the lack of a move to the new stadium, which just has to happen sooner rather than later, has played its part, but for a union that has attracted by far the biggest and most consistent crowds to domestic rugby, this does seem a tad harsh.

And this despite not playing the most attractive rugby on the planet. They seem to understand their diverse market very well, and as such, have multiple ticket price points, always securing a large proportion of “good seats” at a reasonable price. For example, you could get a seat on the halfway line in the Grand Stand for the Super Rugby semi final for R150. And as a student, you get to see every game played at Newlands for R170!

There was much talk on Twitter about the price of a ticket to Saturday’s Test being too expensive. And at R450 for a prime ticket, I would agree. But you could have got into the ground for R100 and “Ramp seating” went for R200 a ticket. Yet still under 40 000 people attended the 50 000-odd capacity stadium.

The poor weather in the build up to the Test would have played its part, as would the sheer volume of rugby being played this year, and the avalanche of sport on TV, including the Olympics, but the bottom line in today’s fiscally tight environment, is that people were not prepared to pay to see Argentina!

The 27-6 scoreline, even when playing poorly, proved the “stay aways” correct. Yet Meyer selects a team with a view to combating their style. Oh for the day when we select according to an entertaining and expansive game plan that we have decided we want to play …

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt

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