How would you feel if you went on a cruise ship holiday and half the other guests got a floor show before their dinner, and you didn’t. They also got to lie on the sunny side of the deck all the time, whereas you were always in the shade. All very far removed from a Christchurch winter of Super Rugby, but patrons at this Saturday’s final may be left feeling a bit like the second group of those hypothetical ship passengers above.
Is it not all just a bit downtrodden and ‘meh’ that on an occasion as big as a Super Rugby semi-final between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes last Saturday night, that the whistle to begin the game came literally fifteen to twenty seconds after the two teams had emerged from the tunnel. Not even a handshake between the opposing captains or even a happening like a quick photo of the captains and the ball kids together (it’s not Wimbledon, but you get the gist).
There was basically not a lot going on pre-match last Saturday- apart from some energetic waving of the home flags as the teams emerged. Did I spy a horse galloping around? Or was that still the escaped one from that other time? Not much to get enthused over for a huge game, really. Players doing their warm-up drills doesn’t constitute pre-match entertainment. And here’s something to consider: Are the lengthy player warm-ups these days a bit of an excuse (or even a legitimate reason) not to have much pre-match festivity?
AMI stadium is a fitting attestation to around six years of relative inaction since the earthquake. Thank goodness now for Megan Woods. She is a breath of air compared to the stale stuff of before. The stadium in question has stood for far too long already. It is a godforsaken, windswept, hail-driven hole and that no-one in their right mind wants to hang around there any longer than they have to on a typical winter’s night in Christchurch- the drums for more returns to daytime rugby will always echo away in the background; so long as games take place at terrible venues like AMI (ironic that an insurance company is the prime sponsor of this ramshackle, scaffolded mini-disaster).
The authorities initially did well to put the thing up within a year of the ‘quake, but it looks like it’s going to be used for at least another 3-4 years, possibly more. The problem is the fans are already over the thing. The inhospitality of the venue is also compounded by us getting the short end of the Super Rugby scheduling stick.
New Zealand- consecutive World Cup rugby champs who get treated like chumps in the boardroom when the SANZAAR Super rugby game times get handed out every year. It’s a travesty that the useless South African teams get any the mid-afternoon kick-offs that are going. We are the last damn stop before Antarctica, yet we get the night games.
We always cave in at the behest of the European TV empire. And there are no European teams involved in our competition, of course. Screwed-up world? It’s all down to metrics and economics of course, but how many afternoon kick-off times did our own SANZAAR members manage to secure for the long-suffering NZ Rugby fan this year? That’s correct- not a single, measly one.
No matter what actually transpires in the organisation of top-level rugby here, the poor old Kiwi rugby fan always comes out the loser. If it’s not the above sham, there’s always something else. Like the ridiculous scheduling of major Ranfurly Shield games at dinner-time on Sunday or on Wednesday nights. Or else it is the quite literal nothingness of pre-game entertainment.
Are we that stoically Kiwi that we can’t manage to rustle up a bit of fanfare before a huge Super Rugby or provincial game? That’s to say, the main action of the evening always seems a tad flat and meaningless without a wee bit of foreplay to get things humming along first. It doesn’t have to be a huge extravaganza, but at least an acknowledgment of the sense of the occasion. Elton John in a reprised feather boa would be fascinating in front of a stand chock full of inebriated mainland farmers. However, price, availability and possibly suitability would negate that. Are those good Canterbury lads, The Feelers, doing much this Saturday evening?
We need to take a few lessons from football/soccer and American sports- at least to a kind of happy medium. A nod to storied history, by way of introducing a few ex-legends/ great teams of the past would be nice sometimes. And that we don’t get to hear our national anthem before a game like the other night, is weird. Whether you like our anthem or not (I do- particularly in Te reo), is a moot point. It’s a reminder of who and where we are. The point being, NZR in association with SANZAAR and the host union really need to give the fans a bit more value for their dollars by being more customer-friendly. They should be actively pursuing ways of conjuring up a bit more atmosphere.
Because without a bit more of a ‘floor show’, there exists the glaring paradox; hypocrisy even, of those in charge carping on about Rugby as being an entertainment product, of the necessity to promote the game experience and bring the fans to the ground. All with the express purpose of warding off other entertainment forms. Yet this Saturday night barely anything to whet the appetite will occur before kick-off at 7.35pm. And it’s the final- the culmination of an almost six-month competition. How lacklustre and neglectful. Truly quite a slap to the true fans who turn up to every match.
You can’t help wondering if the match was being held in South Africa or was a kind of NRL Rugby League equivalent in Australia, that there would be a pretty good spectacle to be enjoyed prior to kick-off.
It’s the twenty-first century. In some ways it’s taken me around eighteen years to notice. And viewing rugby isn’t quite the domain of us grumpy middle-aged and older men any more. Evolve or slowly die etc. Time we did the pre-game stuff a bit better. More so than ever you would think considering it’s the final of multi-million dollar international competition. Surely that’s a yes…isn’t it?