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Return of the conquering heroes

Let’s be honest (your boss isn’t reading this) – Monday morning productivity was at an all time low in South Africa this week, and not just because of a few derby weekend hangovers. Tickets went on general sale for the first Springboks v Ireland game in July…and promptly sold out in under an hour. The only thing that surprises me about this is that people are actually surprised.

Outside of the fact that big Springbok games always sell out pretty quickly, perhaps a bit of context is required. Join me, if you will, on a (slightly traumatic) trip back in time to the months that followed our 2019 RWC victory…

The Springboks’ 2020 home fixtures were announced in early February that year to great anticipation – people were beyond excited to see their champions in action again. After all, they had done what no one expected them to do and returned from Japan with a shiny extra passenger named Bill. The sense of joy that followed that victory still permeated the country. And then...on 27 March, South Africans found themselves in lockdown, largely confined to our homes for an initial two months, with nearly two years of varied lockdown levels to follow. What's more, even when some of those initial restrictions started to lift, there was still no hope of seeing the Springboks play. When they did return to action in July 2021, nearly two years after that incredible final in Japan, it was in an empty stadium. Heartbreaking. The British & Irish Lions series that rugby fans had been counting down to for years was also, devastatingly, played in empty stadiums…and we still had curfews in place during that series, meaning my local had to switch the lights on and stop serving before the second (extended) Test was over. By the time fans were able to go and watch the Springboks play again, in July 2022, nearly three years had elapsed since they were crowned world champions - that's almost a full RWC cycle. People were desperate for live rugby, and the community that goes along with it, and so we were thrilled beyond measure to get back to the stadium. But the opportunity to really celebrate our World Cup victory with the team on the field of play was well and truly missed.

So (and without jinxing it and bringing the next pandemic down on our heads), yes, we are very fucking excited to see our heroes take the field at home for the first time since they went back-to-back.

Beyond all of this, we are a nation that takes our rugby VERY seriously. We love the Springboks to an almost ridiculous degree (and some of us go well beyond ridiculous). That popularity soars when they are doing well, and so of course there was always going to be huge demand for their home games this year. Quite frankly, they could be playing Glenwood’s third team and Loftus likely still would have sold out, and quickly. But they are playing Ireland, who are in exceptional form. A fierce opponent always increases the appetite to attend a game. And let’s face it, there has been a lot of…narrative…coming from our friends in the north about who the “real” best team in the world is, and the fact that we lost to Ireland at the World Cup, and indeed, have lost our last three games against them (none of those in SA). So, it’s safe to say that it promises to be a hotly contested series (which would have been improved by the addition of a third Test). Springbok fans are keen. The Irish are in the throes of the Six Nations, and allegedly haven’t given it a minute’s thought…other than the aforementioned narrative, of course. They’ll be ready when the time comes, I’m sure.

Of course, some Springbok fans are also very, very upset. The ticket sales experience was less than ideal, as the website kept crashing, thanks to that high demand. It was also frustrating for those who apparently were not expecting it to sell out quickly. I get it. I really do. I would honestly cry if I didn’t get tickets. I’m already having palpitations as I prepare for the next round of purchases for the game in Durban (as well as our matches against Portugal and Argentina – my bank manager is going to want a word before March is over…). The fact that there were a few different presales options involving Springbok sponsors and partners, as well as at the sold out Bulls v Stormers game at Loftus over the weekend, has raised some ire. It does us all well to remember that as much as the Springboks are a unifying force and a national treasure, they are also an economic concern. They have to make money to survive, and their sponsors and partners have to feel like they’re getting a good return on investment – that includes being able to offer their own customers perks like presales. Welcome to capitalism.

But the reality is that all of that matters even less than who the opposition is. The truth is that we love our Springboks so fiercely, there should never be any surprise when stadiums sell out in the blink of an eye. Only pride. And a reminder to set those alarms for 08:30 on Monday the 11th, when the next game goes on sale.

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2 commentaires

Absolutely. The presales I reference here don't preclude fans from buying tickets, though. They do give early access to those fans who happen to bank with FNB, have DSTV Premium, or were at the Bulls v Stormers game on Saturday. Given that the first two were limited in terms of seats available and number of tickets allowed to be purchased, I'd even say that the majority of early access tickets went to those who were at that game at Loftus, and they surely must qualify as fans. Corporate tickets are a different issue.


Corporate purchases should be very restricted. While sponsors may be the 'money men' it is the fans that provide the excitement for the players and the cheers that lift them to greater heights. Its the fans that should be heralded and afforded every opportunity to get game tickets and corporate restricted to say max 50 pre-sell tickets. VIVA THE FANS, VIVA!

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