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'Didn't think I would ever experience an All Blacks test like this'

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

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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.

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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