The Cape Town Sevens was wholeheartedly embraced by spectators, while the Blitzboks played their part on the pitch, but this event can become even bigger and better, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The official crowd attendance figure over the two-day tournament was 105,900 – and heralded as the biggest South African sevens tournament since the inception of the World Series in 1999. (By comparison, Port Elizabeth attracted a crowd of 63,000 over the two days of competition last December.)
Surely the decision to move the South African leg to Cape Town has been vindicated, with the hordes of fans who arrived in various costumes and added considerable voice to proceedings making for what was an unforgettable occasion.
The Mother City showed off with perfect weather over the two days, while the rugby was of a generally high standard, with the Blitzboks perhaps most importantly providing the ideal result as they went on to clinch the Cup title.
As they ran out for the final and then performed the national anthem, the support and atmosphere undoubtedly rivalled – if not bettered – the type of vibe experienced at high-profile Springbok Tests.
By all accounts, international teams thoroughly enjoyed their stay in Cape Town, and a number of carefully considered PR events showcased the Mother City and the sevens brand quite literally in a bright light.
Nevertheless, there is still a long, long way to go before the Cape Town Sevens can begin to rival the likes of the iconic Hong Kong Sevens, or the overwhelming party atmosphere of the Wellington leg.
There were a number of logistical and planning teething problems related to queues and traffic that are often inevitable for an event of this magnitude in its inaugural year.
At least one extremely nasty incident of a fight between fans (allegedly over a racist comment) has also emerged, but one can only hope this was an isolated incident and that the guilty parties are brought to account.
Yet now, most importantly, the Cape Town Sevens organisers need to take stock of what did – or didn’t – work and ensure the necessary changes are enforced for the 2016 tournament.
When announcing that the sevens series would be moving to Cape Town for four years, the intention was to take the event to the next level in light of the excitement and expectation created around the game’s Olympic inclusion.
‘World Rugby wanted global iconic destinations to showcase the new Olympic sport of rugby sevens and a world-class stadium, in a world-class city, in the shadow of a World Heritage site that Table Mountain provides,’ Saru CEO Jurie Roux said back in March.
At its first time of trying, the Cape Town Sevens ticked most of the boxes it aimed to, but the building blocks have really only just been put in place.
As Roux conceded, if valuable lessons are taken on board, there is still room for improvement to the overall experience for fans and participants. And as their catchphrase suggests, the Cape Town Sevens needs to increasingly ‘bring the heat’ in 2016.
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images