Talk about a carnival atmosphere!
Once again the rugby-crazy fans of Fiji delivered a simply magnificent event, which was quickly dubbed by fans watching on television back home in New Zealand as, the Super Rugby Game of the Year!
And what a spectacle it was! Only after the final whistle when both teams had stopped running, could someone actually do the maths – the Crusaders were up 20 nil in the first 20 minutes and in what seemed like only a matter of minutes it was all over red rover – the Chiefs had staged an unlikely comeback scoring 40 points to 7 to snatch an audacious win!
They stunned the Crusaders 40 v 27 in Suva on Saturday 1st July and from start to finish, the sellout crowd at ANZ Stadium was totally blown away by the epic contest between two of New Zealand’s traditional rugby rivals, with flags waving continually throughout and spectators truly on the edge of their seats.
Sky Sports commentator, Tony Johnson summed it up nicely: “They say that Fiji is the place that happiness finds you. The fans are going to go home happy tonight regardless of who wins. It’s been an exhilarating spectacle.”
Later, he brought in former All Blacks Captain Justin Marshall who expressed his hope that others would follow the Chiefs’ lead and bring more Super Rugby games to the Pacific.
“How good is this Justin? These people of this county that gives so much to rugby; it’s great to bring this match here and, I guess, there’s some uncertainty about what lies ahead in terms of the Super Rugby matches,” Johnson said. “I hope someone can pick it up and run with it again. The Chiefs deal is over after this one.”
Marshall agreed, “They are massive supporters of Super Rugby the Fijian people”. They follow it, they all have their teams they support and Super Rugby wouldn’t be what it is now when it started in 1996. There’s been a Fijian element that’s been involved and I think it’s great that there’s a game here that signifies what it’s all about”, he added.
At the conclusion of the game, a breathless Sam Cane summed up the feeling of all the players, “Oh, we love these Fijian people,” the Chiefs captain said. “They are seriously incredible. Their passion for rugby is unmatched anywhere in the world. They were loud tonight. I think they were just appreciating good rugby”.
He added, “I mean, there were a fair few points scored so I guess they enjoyed it.” His comments were seconded by the Crusaders skipper and the man expected to take over the New Zealand captaincy from Kieran Read following the World Cup. “It’s awesome,” Sam Whitelock said.
“I talked to the boys earlier in the week, the first time we played here there was a couple of Mexican waves going 30 minutes before kick-off and there was that atmosphere here tonight as well.
“I’m not sure who was the home team, I think everyone wanted to just see some great rugby and they saw some awesome tries and awesome skill work shown”, Whitelock said.
From Suva to Tokyo and even Brookvale, SANZAAR is being shown the way forward for Super Rugby. In a day and age where every dollar counts and the game is streamed and broadcast around all corners of the world, spectators need a point of difference to attend games.
That difference is atmosphere.
Broadcasting out of the Pacific Islands has its difficulties. The lack of infrastructure is one reason why the Pacific Islands don’t yet have a team in Super Rugby.
But the region is crying out for more.
Tokyo, too, will be lost to Super Rugby before we know it.
SANZAAR has made its bed. Now it must work out how to bring back the crowds and the spectacle.
The sustainability of Super Rugby depends on it.
by Culden Kamea, SKY Sports and stuff.com