Blues, Crusaders draw biggest Super crowds

MATT MARKHAM
Last updated 05:00 03/07/2013
Dan Carter
Fairfax NZ
CLUB RETURN: Rumours are abound that Dan Carter may return to club rugby during his sabbatical.

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The Crusaders continue to be one of the most popular teams in Super Rugby despite a season of mixed results and decreasing crowd numbers at home.

The seven-time championship winning side have drawn an average crowd size of 14,600 to AMI Stadium this year, a decrease from 17,300 last season but still enough to have them second only to the Auckland-based Blues for New Zealand sides.

However, it's away from home where the red and black brand is really prospering.

The Crusaders attract more spectators to matches away from their home ground than any other team in the competition, with an average of more than 28,000 attending eight away matches so far this season.

It's the first time the Crusaders have led this category since 2007, and last year they were only eighth.

Having players of the calibre of Dan Carter in the side will have been a major factor in those figures, but Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said the support around the world for the side as a whole is remarkable.

"We see a lot of support when we are away," he said.

"Having some big names in the side has traditionally attracted a few more to matches, but the team seems to have a strong following.

"No matter where they play, whether it be Dunedin or Cape Town there is strong support and that's great."

Overall crowd sizes in all of Super Rugby are down this season with last year's average of 21,800 dropping by 2000 people.

Despite the figures at AMI Stadium reflecting that, Riach said that it was still proving to be a successful season considering last year was the first season that rugby was back in Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake.

"Last year was a special case, there had been no rugby for over a year in the city and bringing Super Rugby back was a big part of the rebuild and things returning to a bit of normality.

"And although the numbers are slightly down, we continue to get decent crowds to home games which is a great show of support to the team."

The Blues figures are traditionally strong due to population in Auckland, but both the Highlanders and the Chiefs will be able to hold their head high after good support this year.

The defending champions, the Chiefs, have attracted consistent crowds while the Highlanders have done well considering their results on the paddock.

Things aren't so rosy for the Hurricanes however with an average of 11,200 at Westpac Stadium.

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Their largest crowd of 15,111 surprisingly came against the lowly Kings back in round seven, while derbies against both the Chiefs and Hurricanes failed to reach 13,000.

While it won't reach the 31,000 spectators that the Blues and Crusaders match did at Eden Park in round three, Friday night's Crusaders and Chiefs clash has the potential to go close to being one of the most successful at AMI Stadium this season.

"Early sales are certainly strong, but there are still a lot of tickets available," Riach said.

"We have a few concerns that people might be thinking there are no tickets left and that is not the case."

More than 13,000 tickets have already been sold for the match with the maximum capacity of AMI Stadium currently at around 17,200.

- The Press

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