Johannesburg – Friday, 25 March 2022 – SABC Sport has enhanced its growing reputation of delivering top-class rugby content, with the national broadcaster’s two flagship offerings attracting more viewers in 2022 than any other rugby competition, according to latest official statistics.
Data confirmed that the French Top 14 and Heritage Rugby are significantly outperforming more high-profile local and international tournaments, including the United Rugby Championship, Six Nations, Currie Cup and Varsity Cup.
Viewership for the Top 14 match between Castres and Montpellier on Saturday, 5 March on SABC2 peaked at over 408,000 – almost five times the number of peak viewers for the Cheetahs v Lions Currie Cup match on the SuperSport Rugby channel on the same day. Peak viewing for the Top 14 match was also six times higher than for that day’s Griquas v Blue Bulls Currie Cup match on the same satellite channel.
The Top 14 has attracted an average of 256,000 viewers per match over the past six months, with the Brive v Bordeaux match on 8 January recording over 321,000 viewers and the Brive v Clermont match on 12 February hitting an audience peak in excess of 486,000.
Equally impressive has been the popularity of SABC Sport’s Heritage Rugby offering – a newly-formed umbrella brand for most of the country’s top club competitions. Heritage Rugby is a partnership between SABC Sport and mobile broadcaster SEI Sport, which has broadcast agreements with, amongst others, the Eastern Cape Super 14 (EC Sports Confederation), World Sports Betting Carlton League (Bulls), Pirates Grand Challenge & Memorial Cup (Lions), Moor Cup & Murray Cup (Sharks), and Grand Challenge (Eastern Province).
SABC2 viewership for Heritage Rugby’s Eastern Cape Super 14 Final in Despatch, between Progress and Harlequins last Saturday, 19 March peaked at over 363,000 – five-and-a-half times the peak audience of the Sharks v Zebre URC match broadcast at the same time on the SuperSport Rugby channel. It was also nearly five times the peak audience of the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations match, also broadcast at the same time, on the SuperSport Grandstand channel.
The SABC Sports channel also carried the game live, with the build-up attracting more viewers than the Six Nations match between Wales and Italy.
This year has already seen a total of eight live Heritage Rugby broadcasts from iconic Eastern Cape locations including Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane, Adcock Stadium in Gqeberha, and WJ de Wet Stadium in Despatch – the home ground of Rugby World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus.
The matches were broadcast live on SABC Sport (DTT Channel 4, Openview Channel 124), the SABC Sport Facebook page, and on TelkomONE, with rebroadcasts on Saturday evening primetime on SABC2. In addition, the matches have been promoted on a number of SABC radio stations including Metro FM, Umhlobo Wenene, Ukhozi FM and Radio 2000.
For some time, many rugby fans have been unaware that SABC Sport has such a rich offering of compelling local and international rugby content, said Head of SABC Sport, Gary Rathbone. The figures demonstrate that this sentiment has changes and that our rugby audience are excited about the access to top-flight Rugby on SABC Sport. The SABC Sport channel is still a relatively new platform but is already outperforming other competitor sports channels at the same time.
“Our French Top 14 offering is already the most watched rugby tournament in South Africa and we are only weeks into a long-term plan to build the Heritage Rugby brand into something uniquely South African from a broadcast point of view,” Rathbone added. “Club rugby has historically been a level of the game overlooked by the country’s television broadcasters, but no longer.
“What these figures show is that club rugby is hugely popular, which is good for the overall health of South African rugby. Every part of rugby’s value chain, from amateur to professional, is important in its own right. But we at SABC Sport have made it one of our priorities to afford club rugby the level of respect it has always deserved, as an incubator of talent and for the vital social role it plays in communities.”
The French Top 14 and Heritage Rugby highlights shows on SABC2 have also been responsible for substantial viewership figures. The Top 14 highlights show has reached an audience peak of 670,000, while Heritage Rugby’s weekly highlights show this year has attracted an average of 195,000 viewers per episode. The 22 January broadcast recorded more than 325,000 unique viewers and an audience peak above 422,000 – second only to the French Top 14 while performing stronger than all other rugby competitions on South African television.
Rathbone said that SABC Sport’s rugby attention would now shift to the premier club competitions in Bulls, Lions and Sharks country, following the conclusion of the Heritage Rugby series’ maiden competition, the Eastern Cape Super 14, which took place from 22 January to 19 March.
“The Super 14 is the most prestigious club competition in the Eastern Cape and was the first-ever Heritage Rugby property to be broadcast. We are busy putting together the building blocks of a groundbreaking rugby brand with very unique DNA,” he said.
“It’s about big crowds, brass bands, and non-stop action with few interruptions. And to tell the story of community rugby is a commentary team comprising Udo Carelse, who needs no introduction, veteran broadcaster Zolani Bongco, who last week commentated on his 250th one-day international cricket match, former Springbok prop Lawrence Sephaka and Blue Bulls legend John Mametsa.
“Our broadcasts reflect South Africa’s diversity, with match commentary alternating between English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa across each 80 minutes, which is also groundbreaking. Heritage Rugby really is rugby in full voice and in full colour,”. The future of SABC Sport is very bright and its ability to showcase fresh compelling content to its rugby audiences is unmatched, concluded Rathborne.
Issued By: Group Communications
Media Enquiries: Ms. Gugu Ntuli (Group Executive: Corporate Affairs and Marketing)
NtuliGM@sabc.co.za|T. 011 714 3311|C. 071 877 0513