'Didn't think I would ever experience an All Blacks test like this'
The All Blacks‘ 57-22 win over the Wallabies in the second of back-to-back tests at Eden Park was played in front of the smallest crowd for a Bledisloe test in over 50 years in Auckland.
The official count stood at 25,121, a far cry from last week’s sellout with 47,000 fans. Despite the All Blacks’ performance being worthy of a better crowd, the fans not showing up has put a spotlight on the state of the game in New Zealand.
The crowd was labelled ‘poor’, a ‘disgrace’ and ‘very disappointing crowd for our national sport’ by Kiwi fans online as theories were tabled as to why there was such a low turnout for such a critical game in the Bledisloe series.
Official crowd attendance at Eden Park is 25,121 #NZLvAUS
— Aiden McLaughlin (@Womble101) August 14, 2021
What a poor crowd! Has Jacinta closed the borders to Eden Park too? #NZLvAUS
— Kristopher Gale (@k_gale88) August 14, 2021
Very disappointing crowd for our national sport. Nowhere near a sellout. Big wake-up call for Mark Robinson & NZRFU to address exorbitant ticket prices.
— Christian Hansen (@cpHansen3) August 14, 2021
That crowd is a disgrace!
Can’t tell me it wouldn’t have been a sell out anywhere else.
— Phil Lemin (@phil_lemin) August 14, 2021
To everyone asking why it’s a small crowd: this game was meant to be in Welly in 2wks but Covid in Oz meant they wouldn’t be able to get to Perth and then back again w/o quarantine. But there’s another event in Welly tonight so game moved to Auck, but no time to sell tix #NZLvAUS
— Brendon Trass (@brendontrass) August 14, 2021
Didn’t think I would ever experience an All Blacks test like this in NZ let alone a Bledisloe Cup. Sure just over a week lead in time, over priced tickets too, and test at same venue, but overriding feeling is the lure of the All Blacks is not there anymore, 25 min till KO pic.twitter.com/myhGEv4Hau
— Matt Brown (@chahuahua) August 14, 2021
Players on field pic.twitter.com/R8K5nfY5d0
— Matt Brown (@chahuahua) August 14, 2021
Who wants to support a team that’s going to be sponsored by an oil company? Such a shame for the black jersey ?
— JuanitaNZ (@Signsoflife27) August 14, 2021
They should have significantly discounted the ticket prices. It was always going to be difficult otherwise to sell out Auckland two weeks in a row for the same opposition.
— SnowCastle (@SnowCastle100) August 14, 2021
Its not the 70’s and 80’s anymore, people have the internet, people have been overseas, people have seen other sports, and don’t have to rely on NZ Journos to shove one sport down out throats. We now have access to see LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Messi, Salah, etc etc etc.
— Guy Smiley (@GuySmiley11) August 14, 2021
Many reasons were floated for the absence of fans, including Wallabies fatigue given just a week ago the same game was played at the same place, high ticket prices, lack of time to promote the game and even the All Blacks’ new oil sponsor Ineos turning away fans.
The second test was originally scheduled to be in Perth, with the third Bledisloe back in Wellington. A resumption of government restrictions around international travel put plans up in limbo.
With border restrictions in place and Sky Stadium having been booked out for this weekend, Wellington couldn’t host the game instead of Perth so Auckland was given two in a row.
After the game, Sam Whitelock and head coach Ian Foster were queried around the crowd numbers for the test. The All Blacks lock said he was happy with the effort from those that turned up, showing loud and respectful support.
“For myself, being a tight five forward, I don’t really know what is going on with the crowd,” Whitelock said.
“I go back to the North vs South game we played last year when there was no crowd, that was really when I noticed it for the first time.
“The people that were here tonight, they were awesome. They were loud, they were respectful, they got in behind us when we were doing well but also when we needed that lift.
“It’s great to have people here, sure it would be great to have it packed out every week. If we get another one in New Zealand, hopefully we can do it.”
Ian Foster suggested that the turnout shows just how hard it is to put on a test match, and with 10 days notice it was going to be difficult to host two tests in the same market back-to-back.
“I think it shows the enormity of what it takes to stage a big test match. If you look at last week, 47,000, that was a brilliant job from everyone in our organisation to fill the stadium,” Foster said.
“To have a game thrust into the same market with 10 days notice, it just shows you the complexities for professional rugby and professional sport.
“I looked around the stadium and thought, wow, let’s focus on who’s there.
“I looked at the Lions-Springboks series, which is an iconic series, played in front of empty grandstands. We are about to go to Australia, and who knows what size grandstands we’ll get there.
“We are just going to celebrate the people that are there.”
The All Blacks coach thought that judging the crowd in these times was ‘harsh’ with the tough times people are going through.
“We’ve got to face the fact that we are in interesting times. The whole concept of planning your time is a little bit different, people have shorter turnarounds.
“It’s kinda not my problem but I wouldn’t be judging it that harsh. The times are pretty tough for a whole lot of people.”
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