SA Sevens to move to CT?
Organisers of the Port Elizabeth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series are appealing to the local public for big attendances this weekend.
The campaign to increase the numbers at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is unsurprising, as they may already be swimming against a powerful tide in terms of holding on to the event after 2014.
According to Sport24 status quo will change in 2015 with an irresistible lobby both at International Rugby Board and sponsorship level agitating for the Cape Town Stadium to host the South African leg of the Sevens World Series.
As things stand, Port Elizabeth, which first hosted the Sevens in 2011 after George’s nine-year tenure, is due to retain the event until next year, after which fresh pitches will be invited.
But various factors are conspiring to make a longer hold on it by the Friendly City highly unlikely, not least the fact that long-time major sponsor Emirates Airline is recommitting to the Sevens World Series for several more years.
It is no longer the name sponsor of the SA leg, that mantle having been taken over by Cell C, but still holds that status for the Emirates and Scotland ones and remains powerfully synonymous with the World Series as a whole.
An irritation for Emirates is that they do not fly to either George or Port Elizabeth, and want the Sevens to go to one of their staple, direct destinations – Cape Town International Airport boasts two Emirates flights daily.
HSBC is also known to be impatient about maximising their leveraging potential for the South African leg, which is only possible if a major city in the country, with direct fly-in links and heaviest tourism traffic, takes over the Sevens.
Cape Town, in its reliable summer weather-wise, fits that bill perfectly.
Making Cape Town Stadium particularly attractive is its convenient proximity to Cape Town's Waterfront hotels, restaurants, bars and other attractions – several rugby fields and clubs in the Green Point area also provide rich potential for tented nearby hospitality facilities and the like.
But for the moment, PE will not go down without a fight in their bid to continue hosting the World Sevens Series in South Africa.
Rian Oberholzer, managing director of Access Management, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium operator, said they were “well aware” of bigger cities or venues countrywide being keen to seize hosting rights.
“That is why we are asking the public here to vote with their feet (this weekend)," he told Sport24.
"People showed what the city can do in rugby terms with the way they supported the Kings.
“There are many reasons the Sevens should stay here, just one being that players have voted this one as their favourite leg of the series.”
Oberholzer, a former SARFU and SANZAR CEO, said Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium lured almost 40 000 spectators over the two days in 2012 and the ideal this time, with realistic ticket pricing, would be close to 30 000 each day.
“I think in South Africa as a whole we haven’t quite grasped Sevens fully yet from a spectator point of view; we have mainly still been a XVs country in that regard," he explained.
“We at least have two more seasons to show what we can do (in PE) and SARU and the IRB must then decide what they want to do with the Sevens further ahead; we must use the next two (tournaments) to make it impossible to move it.”
Back your team