Super Rugby Pacific teams: Son of All Blacks legend handed debut for Moana PasifikaSuper Rugby TV ratings drop ahead of Blues-Crusaders showdown
Officials are hoping the Good Friday blockbuster between the Crusaders and Blues will provide a ratings boost for Super Rugby Pacific as interest in the competition on TV dips badly.
1News has sourced figures from Nielsen TAM which show declining primetime (7pm/7.30pm games) TV viewership for the competition, with the early rounds of 2022 averaging around 100,000 viewers.
In Rugby World Cup years in 2015 and 2019 audiences, aged five and over, per primetime game averaged close to 200,000.
With Covid mangling the competition, that figure dived in 2021 and ratings have now nearly halved compared with three years ago.
While Covid is an obvious answer, there are other potential explanations for the poor ratings, with a constant diet of local derbies, and star players in and out of lineups also among factors.
Streaming and highlights packages are going through the roof and people are watching more of a snack-sized version of the product.
Crowds haven't set the world on fire either since being allowed back.
Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge says they have got feedback from members.
“Three years of covid and its knocked people's habits around no doubt about it,” he said.
“Last time around at zero Covid it was get into it have a ball. This time, you know, before you go out put your mask on, be careful.
“I know we've had members say they're not going to attend the game because of anxieties.”
Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry said: “I think the crowds have been disappointing and hopefully we get a good turnout – the top two New Zealand teams at the moment playing each other.
“I think it’s important we put on a spectacle and play good footy too. Maybe the footy wasn’t as good as it needed to be at the start but I think there’s an impression that it’s starting to improve.”
The one game that did pique full interest was Roger Tuivasa-Scheck's debut against the Hurricanes, which almost doubled the ratings numbers.
Coincidentally the former Warriors star is returning for the Blues as they head to Christchurch on Friday night.
It could be a return to a packed house and booming numbers of 2004, which happens to be the last time the blues won on the mainland.
Blues: Stephen Perofeta, AJ Lam, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Mark Telea, Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii (c), Tom Robinson, Josh Goodhue, Luke Romano, Ofa Tuungafasi, Kurt Eklund, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Jordan Lay, Nepo Laulala, James Tucker, Adrian Choat, Taufua Funaki, Roger Tuivasa-Shecka, Zarn Sullivan/Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens.
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Ethan Blackadder, Zach Gallagher, Scott Barrett (c), Oli Jager, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ricky Jackson, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Dominic Gardiner, Pablo Matera, Mitch Drummond, Fergus Burke, George Bridge.