Winning in the stands will mean nearly as much as winning on the pitch when the Hurricanes host the Crusaders at Westpac Stadium tonight.
Dwindling Super Rugby crowds have put the acid on the Hurricanes' budget ahead of their seventh and final regular season match of 2014.
Average home attendances of 10,114 so far mean a crowd of just shy of 16,000 will be needed to push the 2014 average above last year's figure of 10,938.
If the Crusaders attract less than 9314 bums on seats, the Hurricanes' average home crowd for a season would dip below 10,000 - something that has not happened since Super Rugby was first played at Westpac Stadium in 2000.
That unwanted milestone seems certain to be avoided with pre-sales, which include season pass holders, hitting 12,800 yesterday afternoon, nearly 2000 ahead of any previous match this season.
It's not every week Beauden Barrett, Victor Vito, Brad Shields and Tim Bateman take to pedalling tickets at Wellington Railway Station but there are encouraging signs the marketing offensive is having some effect.
Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni was unsure whether the match would reach the budgeted figure of 16,500, but was optimistic the Crusaders would attract more than 13,019, the number who turned up to watch the Highlanders earlier in the season.
"In terms of pre-sales, we've had about 2000 more than any other game this year and, if we get some good weather, I would love to see a crowd of 15,000 or more," he said.
"We're a little shy of last year but, if we get a good crowd, we could push the average above last year. It's still well shy of where we want to go but, from my point of view, if we get 15,000 or more with a big walk-up we'll be happy."
The match is effectively a Super Rugby playoff match for the home side and the return of All Blacks and Crusaders star first five-eighth Dan Carter to top-level rugby adds a bonus drawcard.
The weather forecast is good, with the MetService predicting clear skies and a high of 14 degrees Celsius.
- The Dominion Post
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