Loftus Versfeld experienced its lowest attendance numbers in 13 years during 2014.
According to the Blue Bulls Rugby Union (BBRU) annual report, 427,026 people watched rugby and soccer at Loftus last year. This is considerably less than the 485,154 people who went through the turnstiles in 2013 and stark contrast to the more than a million people who packed Loftus in 2007, the year the Vodacom Bulls first claimed their maiden Vodacom Super Rugby title.
Barend van Graan, the CEO of the BBRU, said in his end-of-year report that there is great concern about the 'dramatic decline in rugby attendance at Loftus'.
The Bulls attracted an average of 16,434 spectators per game in 2014, down from 24,619 the previous year – a sharp decline of 34%. The biggest drop was experienced in the Super Rugby competition, where about 11,000 spectators less (37%) showed up per game.
The report also noted an increase in attendance of football matches at the stadium, something which has been attributed to Mamelodi Sundown's title-winning campaign. In 2013, football fans made up only 27% of Loftus's total attendance, but that figure rose to 46% last year.
John Newbury, BBRU chairman, said the team's erratic performances on the park obviously had a direct impact on ticket sales. The Bulls failed to make the Super Rugby play-offs, and were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Currie Cup at Newlands.
'The Bulls fans, by staying away, sent a clear message that the team will have to play better,' said Newbury in his chairman's report.
Wynand Claassen, a former Springbok captain and chairman of the Bulls' ex-players union, says the only way to bring back the supporters is to start winning matches.
'The team this year will not only be under pressure to win, but also to play more enterprising rugby,' said Claassen. 'The Bulls will have to show progress this season. The Super Rugby squad looks good on paper, but it's what happens on the grass that matters.'
Photo: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images