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Rugby bonanza

Top overseas teams’ games in Bay against Southern Kings huge boost for city.

VISITS by star-studded teams from New Zealand, Argentina and Japan will trigger a massive cash boost for Nelson Mandela Bay when the Southern Kings return to a revamped Super Rugby tournament next year.

Rugby has already contributed more than R1-billion to the metro over the past six years.

“It is wonderful that these teams are coming. The economic impact on the city will be dramatic,” Kings boss Cheeky Watson said after the fixture list was released by Sanzar yesterday.

“It is good for business and rugby in the Bay,” he said.

When the Southern Kings last played Super Rugby in 2013, more than 250 000 fans watched their home matches and Kings officials are confident that attendance figures can be bettered.

A capacity 45 000 crowd is expected when the Kings kick off their campaign with a blockbuster opener against the Sharks on February 27 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

The confirmation that the Kings will be playing in Super Rugby is a shot in the arm after the blow the Bay suffered when it lost the right to host the IRB Sevens to Cape Town earlier in the year. The Kings will also travel to play matches against Super Rugby newcomers Argentina and teams in New Zealand as they bid to make an impact in the international event.

“With teams from Japan and Argentina coming here, it will expand the rugby world. It is good for them to be part of the Super Rugby family,” Watson said. “They will add a bit of flavour and different styles of rugby, which will bode well for this region.”

The Kings have been grouped in Africa Conference 2 with the Lions, Sharks and an Argentine team that will be named after the World Cup in England. Africa Conference 1 will comprise the Bulls, Cheetahs, Stormers and a Japanese team. The Japanese team will face the Kings in Port Elizabeth on April 2 and the Argentines will play at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on May 27.

The Kings travel to Argentina for their April 30 match, which is expected to be played in Buenos Aires. Watson said hosting big events had a massive impact on the city. “Restaurants are packed and jobs are created,” he said.

EP Kings chief executive Charl Crous also welcomed the fixtures against international teams, saying: “It is great that we have teams coming to Port Elizabeth that will bring an international flavour.

“They are teams that do not usually travel to this region. It is a chance to display what a wonderful city and province we have,” he said.

“Since 2009, rugby has contributed more than R1-billion to the city with events like test matches, the IRB Sevens and Super Rugby in 2013. “With Super Rugby back in the city, it will churn a lot of economic activity,” Crous said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said:

“Sport and recreation play an important role in the diversification of Nelson Mandela Bay’s economy, by creating new economies to support the priority sector of tourism and hospitality in the region.

“Economists calculate that for every eight foreign tourists visiting South Africa, one local job is created.

“The economic injection to the city, in particular the international rugby games’ contribution, has in the past been a welcome boost to the region of Nelson Mandela Bay.”

The Lions will make history by becoming the first team to play a Super Rugby match in Japan when the new-era 18-team competition kicks off. They will face the Tokyo franchise at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium on February 26. The six South African teams are grouped in two African pools along with the new entrants from Japan and Argentina.

The existing 10 Australasian teams will be divided into New Zealand and Australia pools. The winners of each pool will earn automatic entry to the knockout Super Rugby finals series.

The next highest-ranked team from the African conference will also be placed in the finals series along with the three next highest ranked teams from the Australasian conference.

“As we stand eagerly on the cusp of a new era of Super Rugby, fans can look forward to the upcoming season with a great deal of optimism and enthusiasm,” Sanzar interim chief executive Brendan Morris said.

“We are in the enviable position to be delivering our great brand of rugby to new cities and international markets, unlocking a host of commercial opportunities and delivering the unbridled excitement of Super Rugby to a legion of new and existing fans,” he said. The African pools play home and away against teams in their pool.

They play either home or away against the teams in the other African pool and their programme is completed by matches against all the teams from either the Australian or New Zealand conference.

(Source: The Herald)